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. Patriot


    People were mad at you for making a shameless cynical comparison of Barack Obama's campaign and Jesse Jackson's campaign of 20 years ago.

    Bill, I think you do care about black people, but you care about yourself more.

    August 4, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  2. Really

    Everyone is a racist to a certain degree. And why anyone in the world would have voted for this clown is beyond me. Now come the old gray mair and she needs to be put out to pasture. She would sell her soul for a vote. Obama can not be trusted and is a racist in the worst kind of way.

    August 4, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  3. Chuck, Montgomery, AL

    I definitely think he wanted to be co-president.

    Don't understand what has happened to the man that can even work with ex-republican presidents. Guess he just really wanted to be co-president.

    Oh well – we didn't need a third term for Bill Clinton, and we don't need a third term for W.

    August 4, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  4. ME

    yes you are

    TOO BAD!!!

    August 4, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  5. JoanG

    It is so sad how the level of discourse in this country has been affected by the Obama campaign. Now even Bill Clinton has to say he is not a racist. Have we really come to the point that disagreeing with any position Obama takes makes one a racist? Heaven help us in November, even if Obama wins, because a significant portion of the country won't vote for him. It has nothing to do with race, but even Obama cannot be all things to all people.

    August 4, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  6. Allan

    America stupit to let any time talk about race. If white not look properly on black person, they can call him racist. Why black can say anything about race, but white have to be very "carefull ". Obama bring no unity to America.America ,please wake up. No obama.

    August 4, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  7. smart40

    Whatever Bubba, nobody cares about you.

    August 4, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  8. alvino

    McCain may say he is not a racist, but his actions as a young Arizona senator speak volumes about the real McCain .

    August 4, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  9. Hava Binky

    Get over it, Bill. The primaries are over. Don't let the media manipulate you and control the narrative of your legacy. The more defensive you get, the worse it makes you look. The best thing you can do is to move on, and campaign for your party.

    If the idiot pundits want to yap about if you're a racist or not? Let them. But don't give them the satisfaction of a response.

    August 4, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  10. Matt

    Sure, Bill, you aren't racist.

    But Obama is.

    Notice how Bill and Hillary are distancing themselves from Obama.

    August 4, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  11. RDS

    Of course we don't think Bill is a racist and I think that accusations by Hillary Clinton supporters that Obama called him that are ridiculous. You want somebody to blame...blame the MSM. THEY took Bill comments and twisted them into something racist, until the point that Obama had to make a statement about it b/c he was repeatedly asked about it. He never came out and said Bill was a racist, nobody in their right mind would believe that Bill who has an office in Harlem is racist.

    August 4, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  12. Tejano

    Bill and Hillary have done more than anyone for minorities. The same cannot be said for Obama. If anything Obama and his followers are the Rcists. They blame everything on the White establishment. This was the same tactic of the 60's radicals. What they dont take into consideration is that many of us Minorities are no longer poor and uneducated., we see throught the B.S. Barak and theDemocratic
    ;party use to take our votes. We are Capitalists and will not' vote for a Socialist/Marxist Agenda, no matter who proposes it.

    August 4, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  13. pam Eugene OR

    Both the Clinton's piled it pretty high on Obama. He is still dealing with most of it now from the Repugs. I will never forgive the Clinton's for their nasty campaign!

    August 4, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  14. Johnson

    Bill should be ashm of himself, everybody use to call him black president but becose of polities he tanish is reputision, if not beose of becose they love him even during the primaries he said he did not regret what he said becose he thought his wife could still win he spoil his wife chance it is a pity

    August 4, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  15. Les-Wa

    I am against NOBAMA, he is ANTI-WHITE. If you koolaid drinkers read his book NOBAMA expressed his anger towards white people. For anyone of you calling Bill Clinton racist, you've just shown how racist you are!

    August 4, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  16. Javier, NV

    It's funny how Obama and his people have made Bill Clinton from the "First black President" to a racist. As a democrat and a black man it makes me sick to my stomach that Bill Clinton has to defend himself for not being racist. He has worked more about black problem than any president and now he is racist simply because he wanted his wife to win. Sorry, I'll not vote for Obama in hundred of years.

    August 4, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  17. Democrat

    Obamas fatal mistake was not putting Clinton on the ticket. Because of this I am one of many Democrtas who will be voting for McCain in November.

    August 4, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  18. Les-Wa

    If you don't have experience to show to people why they should vote for you, USE the RACE CARD = NOBAMA

    August 4, 2008 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  19. Dave in Illinois

    You don't have to be a racist. If you critize Obama in any way, it's spun by his camp as a racial attack. Hillary just wasn't as successful spinning attacks on her as gender bias.

    August 4, 2008 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  20. A Nightingale Sings in Berkley Square

    It's cool Bill, no one but the PUMA's think you're a racist.

    Obama '08

    August 4, 2008 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  21. Poor Bill

    Even Bill, friend of the blacks, gets nailed as a racist for not supporting Obama. Funny thing is, whenever racism is mentioned it is somehow blamed on Republicans. The dems are the only ones talking about race. Also, Bush has had more blacks in higher positions then Bill ever dreamed. Kerry's staff was 100% white. It is just more lip-service. Slice it any way you like, republicans are more inclusive then anyone else.

    August 4, 2008 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  22. RJ, CA

    I agree, Mr. President - calling you a "racist" was nothing but race bating by the Obama camp - pure and simple - and it continues on and on. And, yes - THIS OBAMA CAMPAIGN IS THE BIGGEST FAIRY TALE EVER!

    August 4, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  23. Tommy - Houston, Texas

    Who cares?

    August 4, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  24. Fitwwwfae

    Why are we still talking about the Clinton's? It is clear that they are still bitter about their defeat and waiting for a major Obama screw up so they can say "I told you so." Obama doesn't need that type of person campaigning for him; they [the Clinton's] need to go on an extended vacation until November 7th.

    August 4, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  25. John mcCain

    ============who cares==========

    August 4, 2008 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
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