August 4th, 2008
12:10 PM ET
15 years ago

Bill Clinton: 'I am not a racist'

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Former President Clinton, seated next to his daughter and his mother-in-law, at times appeared emotional as he watched Sen. Clinton deliver her concession speech in June."]
(CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton said Monday that he regrets some of his controversial primary season comments, telling an interview that he is “not a racist.”

Clinton addressed some of the frenzy over his comments about his wife Hillary Clinton’s Democratic rival, presumptive party nominee Barack Obama, following the Illinois senator’s win in January’s South Carolina primary.

The former president, who appeared to grow agitated at times during one of his first interviews since his wife ended her active campaign for the presidential nomination in June, was asked by in the ABC interview if he was at least partly to blame for the New York senator’s loss, and if he personally had any regrets.

"Yes, but not the ones you think. And it would be counterproductive for me to talk about," said Clinton, adding that "there are things that I wish I'd urged her to do. Things I wish I'd said. Things I wish I hadn't said.

"But I am not a racist," he continued. "I've never made a racist comment and I never attacked him [Obama] personally."

Clinton’s comparison of Obama’s South Carolina victory to those of former Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson drew resentment from some in the African-American community and an apology from Hillary Clinton.

In an April interview, the former president himself said his words had been deliberately distorted by the Obama campaign. “We were talking about South Carolina political history and this was used out of context and twisted for political purposes by the Obama campaign to try to breed resentment elsewhere. And you know, do I regret saying it? No. Do I regret that it was used that way? I certainly do. But you really got to go some to try to portray me as a racist.”

He added that the way Obama’s campaign had reacted was “disrespectful to Jesse Jackson” that the former presidential candidate had told him he was not offended, and that “we all know what’s going on."

soundoff (368 Responses)
  1. Ron democrat turned independent

    and if obama had said John Edwards had won that state twice but still didn't win the nomination, would that have been racist. is it ok to mention white people in a derogatory way without being racist. sen. obama is on record saying his white grandmother made racist and ethnic slurs that made him cringe. he then later referred to her as a typical white person. is this not being racial. or does being racial not apply to African Americans

    August 4, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  2. Sensible Cape Coral Fl

    Of course race is going to be an issue in this campaign. Obama is black or half black. That cannot be denied or ignored. Every comment by any person will be interpreted or MISinterpreted by someone somewhere. Bill Clinton is more open to this distortion than most. Look at his record and make up your own mind.

    August 4, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  3. MARY

    He is not a racists, just very pissed off that his wife lost to a BLACK MAN, that the black community did not support his wife, and that he is not going back to the white house just yet.

    Oh well, more time for him to fool around on his wife.

    August 4, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  4. Tworried

    You all seem to forget that Obama has given none of the details of his change however he will be the president of a democrate ran congress. I think we all remember the promises they made during that election, those have worked out well.
    A little over one year ago:
    1) Consumer confidence stood at a 2 1/2 year high;
    2) Regular gasoline sold for $2.19 a gallon;
    3) The unemployment rate was 4.5%.
    Since voting in a Democrat Congress in 2006 we have seen:
    1) Consumer confidence plummet;
    2) The cost of regular gasoline soar to over $ 4.00/ gallon;
    3) Unemployment is up to 5% (a 10% increase);
    4) American households have seen $2.3 trillion in equity value evaporate (stock and mutual fund losses);
    5) Americans have seen their home equity drop by $1.2 trillion dollars;
    6) 1% of American homes are in foreclosure.

    America voted for change in 2006, and we got it! Do we want more of Obama's change in 2008?

    August 4, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  5. Chuck, Euigene Oregon.

    We all have a bit of racisim in all of us. Some where along our lives paths we have uttered out loud or under our breaths or in our thoughts something that was racist in nature. That unfortunately is part of our human nature. There is not one person alive that can HONESTLY say they have not thought, or said something that is racist. With that said, I no more believe Bill to be a racist then those members of the CNN staff. Bill is Bill, some like him, some dont, and I am one of those that dont.

    August 4, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  6. Senior female

    If the conversation continues to stay on race, Obama will loose. Plain and simple fact. No one likes to be accused of being a racist and to do so is not in Obama's interest.

    August 4, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  7. John McShame, Obama Is Going to Tax You & Cindy, but Not Me & 95% Americans Making < $250,000/Yr

    NOBODY accused Bill Clinton for being a rascist; he should bame himself for spewing out gibberish that cost his wife her presidential bid. the lost because they had a sense of entitlement and did not make any plans for a long haul campaign. poor planning and taking Barack for granted!!!!!!!!!!!

    Bill should get overit and go on some more speaking engagement to pay off his wife's debt and STOP raising dust where there is none!

    'nuff said, next!

    August 4, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  8. LinnieFB

    Bill Clinton is not a racist...but, he is a politician....he, Jackson, and their cohorts are positioning his wife for a 2012 run.

    August 4, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  9. jdc

    GO OBAMA (back to Europe and your SOCIALIST/Communist "friends").

    August 4, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  10. smarter than you

    Bill and Jessie's days of relevance are over.

    TO quote a film:
    "It's over Johnny... It's OVER!!"

    August 4, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  11. karen-phoenix

    This is getting rediculous!!! The far right wing has nothing else but to smear Obama and anyone connected with him! Stop it!!! This is why I am NO LONGER a republican!!! And I voted straight republican for 50 years!!! The right wing has become "evil"!

    August 4, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  12. educated ron

    Clinton is as un-racist as it gets as a politician. His record and demeanor have shown that he treats people equally based on their actions.

    I've met alot of racists over the years, the KKK type and the type who just keeps it inside and says what they think are harmless comments. He seems to be sincere.

    The racists of this country seem to be in the majority of those who are uneducated and bitter. They need to blame groups of other people for their predicament instead of blaming themselves.

    These same uneducated people are those who are being hurt the most by the current administration policies, but will vote for McCain because Obama's pastor said some 1960s type of comments. Its like shooting a person who is holding you over a cliff trying to pull you up. By reading some of the comments for this topic. There are people who really despise Obama, who attack everything and anything they can. If he says his favorite color is green, they'll say why isn't it blue. If he says he is going to lower peoples taxes who make less than 250k a year, uneducated people who make less than 250k a year say he is going to raise my taxes. All he has done is expose how dishonest the current administration is and wants to give america back to the people. Uneducated people would rather have McCain who wants to continue Iraq for 100 more years and wants the insurance companies to decide health care.

    August 4, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  13. Robert in raleigh

    My grand ma always said that " a bit dog will hollow" which mean the guilty will speak the loudest. Come Bill it's time for you to be quiet.

    August 4, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  14. Peter of Oregon

    At least Bill and Hillary didn't resort to The Ridiculous in their desperation to defeat their opponent like what John-Old-Politics McCain's doing. Keating 5's turned childish in the last few months with his negative ads. I don't even know his policy positions, he keeps focusing on what Barack Obama is or isn't doing.

    I guess with CNN still wondering whether people "in America" not knowing Obama is affecting him in the polls, John Envy's trying to give him some PR by telling folk that Barack's the "One." He's like a huge celebrity fan gone terribly terribly wrong.

    August 4, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  15. carolflowery

    I find anyone calling any of our Presidents or even insinuating they are is racism all by itself. I dont even relate to such accusations anymore

    August 4, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  16. gotcha

    Obama is going down, down, down. Ha Ha. The great one is having to face reality. He is racist and so are all black people.

    August 4, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  17. VV from Indiana

    Bill Clinton without a doubt is NO racist. Maybe there were some
    comments during Hillary's campaigning that he wished now he
    wouldn't have said, but I think it's rather ironic that during the
    campaigning he said that Obama was playing "the race card,
    and planned on doing it all along." I find it very interesting that
    the media is having this same conversation currently, and that
    President Clinton was absolutely, 100% correct. For me, it's a big
    negative against Obama, but then I really don't care. I am a die-hard
    supporter of Senator Clinton's, and even though she HAS to say
    all the nice things, and try and unite the Democratic party, I cannot
    and willl not vote for Obama.

    August 4, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |

    had a guy fired from my office over a race related joke. I do not think he is racist at all...just a dumb moment on his part. Bill Clinton has had some dumb moments as we all have. When your every word is looked at as individual words and not th whole sentence they are in then there are people that label you racist. What he said was true and if a Black man said Obama or Jesse Jackson won South Carolina because of the black vote...Not an Issue...Grow up and leave it alone...not everyone is out to get us or put us down...the Media will let this go on for years...

    August 4, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  19. Bill

    Bill......................your white, your automaticaly a racist. Pay Up

    August 4, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  20. stephanie

    I BELEIVE you. I support and beleive BILL !!! the man does not have a raceist bone in his body. Speaking as a afro-american women, this man has done so much for our country as a hold , black and white was never a issue, also I know in my heart Obama feels the same way. The media has a way of starting conflict ( remember its their job) Clinton dont take it personal, we know were u stand !!!

    August 4, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  21. HSNP

    The Obama camp took all of that old Republican ammo left over from the 1990's and used it on the Clinton's. Obama is no better that Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.

    August 4, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  22. sue

    Clinton's record is not trustworthy. So, we will never know if he's a raciest or not. He lies.

    August 4, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  23. Election Watcher

    The Obama campaign cherry picked comments Clinton made off the record or out of context to give the impression that Clinton harbors racial prejudice. Using these desperate tactics they inadvertently shot themselves in the foot since Clinton is still very popular among moderates of both parties. I believe his Bill Clinton's could have swayed many moderate voters to support Obama rather than McCain.
    Well, that's the cost of running a campaign based on deception and distortion while pretending to be honest and forthcoming.

    August 4, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  24. K.L STINE

    "Just read the Obama supporter comments in this section"...-APS in Hawaii...uumm...I thought most of the posts were siding with Bill Clinton...WOW...a little bitter are we?...but I guess thats the concensus with Hillary supporters...

    August 4, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  25. Charley

    I have voted for black candidates most of my adult life – here in New York City. When I supported Sen. Clinton over Sen. Obama I became caricatured along with other Hillary fans as racist, hillbillies or angry white folks. Guess what ?- Sen. Obama's skin tone makes no difference to me – he is very attractive in many ways but he is a lightweight in heavyweights clothing – I will vote for him reluctantly but many former Hillary supporters will not. It is heartbreaking to fight your whole life, as have the Clintons, for social justice and have a bunch of naive overgrown frat boys with blogs and TV shows call you racists.
    That is why Obama is not surging in the polls – Many loyal Democrats are spent from the primary and will not come home. – Shame – We do not need the bigoted freaks in the Republican party – the enemy is within.

    August 4, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
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