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. Barack Obama 08


    August 4, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  2. V.A. is a moron

    Hey v.a. you know some people have family/loved ones that are retarded so maybe quit being an idiot and using that term. On a different note, WHAT ABOUT THE FISA BILL OBAMA??? How can you vote for legislation like that??? Where is the change now? Obama is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Get used to it America

    August 4, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  3. tim

    Obama has never had a real job, taken no business risks, never
    been a boss of anything, and basically lived off the government and
    shaken down folks for cash. This has nothing to do with race.
    For all intents and purposes he is a bum. Because of this lack
    of any substance he has no choice but to make a case for racism or
    any other nonsense that create smore of a smokescreen to cover
    for the fact that he is a just a wind bag.

    August 4, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  4. TerryDo--PumaPac-40+

    There is only one racist and that is Barack Obama because he keep introducing his color either overtly or covertly, as in I don't look like the other presidents.

    It looks like everytime Obama uses the race card he is trying to utilize the Affirmative Action aspect of that act.

    Obama is trying to be the first Affirmative Action President....

    NOT GOING TO WORK... You can't steal the nomination and expect to win, no way no how!

    August 4, 2008 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  5. Hello!!!

    Pelosi.....ugh.......Obama is an absolute JOKE.
    Dems continue to shoot themselves in the foot over and over and over....

    The Clintons should start their own party....and fix our nation once and for all.....

    August 4, 2008 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  6. PUMA 4 HILL

    Bill, our friend, we know who the racists are... and you and Hillary certainly are not racist. I commend you and Hillary's tough stance against all the old democrats and thank you for your fight and your hearts.

    It will pay off by us PUMA's, don't worry.

    August 4, 2008 10:03 am at 10:03 am |

    It's okay Bill! According to the Obama campain and his supporters, anyone who doesn't support Obama is racist.

    Jesse Jackson doesn't like Obama either, but you don't hear Roland Martin calling Jackson a racist.

    It's funny that some call Obama post racial, but he plays the race card at every turn.

    Still for Hill

    August 4, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  8. Jim

    Painting Bill Clinton as a racist shows me how far Obama will stoop to win an election/primary. No thanks, Barack. There is nothing new in that kind of politics.

    August 4, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  9. GIFTY

    We like you Bill and your family. You are still relevant in todays american polity.

    Please support Obama but do not campaign for him because he's about to meet his end politically soonest.

    August 4, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  10. Hello!!!

    Denis Groves....he is letting it go....the MEDIA wont let it go......

    August 4, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  11. Charles Douglas Lemay

    Bill Clinton cost his wife, at best, the VP slot, and, possibly
    the presidentsy itself. He is so last century!

    August 4, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  12. fred

    No one is a racist in this race.......other than Jeremiah Wright maybe, but he's not running for anything. No one would have gotten as far as they are while being a racist. It just wouldn't happen. So everyone needs to just chill out with all the racist stuff.

    August 4, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  13. Steve


    Clinton is not a racist..never had never ever will be. Everyone knows that all the stuff said during the primaries was just politics as usual, that was meant to win Hillery the nomination playing the race card by bringing white people fears of a black man running the show.


    August 4, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  14. B.Brown

    Bill Clinton is not a racist and John McCain is not a racist, but they both should have the smarts and integrity (in this country with its history of racial prejudice) not to dance around racial innuendos for political gain. Lee Atwater wasn't racist either, but did some vile things because he too knew that there are people who are racists that feed off these actions. Prior to this campaign, Bill Clinton was near the top of my list of heroes and is still someone I like, but I just see him now as being more human. He surprised and disappointed me, but I gave him some slack because I know more than anything he was just trying to help his wife Hillary win. I'll keep that picture he sent me when he was president.

    August 4, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  15. D R

    Your not a racist bill, your a pig!

    August 4, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  16. Kiki in DC

    Andy, How is Obama playing the race card??? Can anyone explain this to me. I heard the McSnoopy Camp keeping saying it but they have yet to prove it....What is sad for America is that you let the media brainwash your mind and began to think just like them.

    What Obama said was right he do not look like the Presidents on the a dollar bill and THEY ( if the shoe fits, wear it) will try and make you scared of me....That is also True!!! Come on People McSame don't have any plans for America but to say don't vote for Obama b/c I said so. This man has yet to have a postive ad about what he will do as the President.

    Happy BIrthday Obama......You are a Leo just like me.....

    August 4, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  17. Rocky

    All Clinton was doing was pointing out that South Carolina tended to vote for black candidates. If he would have pointed out that NY tended to vote for Democrats it would have been the same thing. You can't tell me that in private conversation that the BO campaign didn't have the same conversation before this election. It only became an issue when the BO campaign and his supporters in the media made it one.

    August 4, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |

    This is HUGE NEWS. Clinton can't stand being in exile.

    This is exactly the reason Obama did not choose THE CLINTONS to be (two for the price of one) Vice Presidents.

    Enough Already. No More Clintons.

    August 4, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  19. Natasha

    Well in all,Bill Clinton has said somethings that he may feel like it was harmless.IT"S NOT ABOUT YOU BILL, how do you think the African-Americans who heard your comments feel. YET, it is all about the Clinton's. African-American know your not racist but your demeanor change for power,it was not welcomed. Get over yourselves Clintons' your camp did not provide Hillary with a winning team. She was not prepare, because if she were she would not have been in debt so many millions of dollars.


    August 4, 2008 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  20. democrat for McCain

    Yes Bill you are NOT. and that they are racist tactic is not working against McCain.They and we did that to Hillary and we will make him pay for it by voting for McCain. For all you have done for the AA community,it was disappointing that they all abandoned Hillary and went for the first guy (one without any qualifications to speak of) that look like them. That is what I call racial politics.

    August 4, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  21. LET IT GO

    Bill Clinton is not a racist we know that. Don't you think BILL it's time to move on.

    August 4, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  22. NSmith, New York, NY

    I don't think he's racist, I just think he thought he could get a benefit from racially polarizing white voters into thinking they they would be disadvantaged with a non-white President. Hogwash.

    August 4, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  23. brad in austin

    I don't believe for a second that President Clinton is a racist. But since we had a white woman running against a black man, there is going to be someone that says the other is a racist. I do have an issue with Sen Obama doing his flip flop on letting big oil drill with certain provisions, and the myriad of other things he has flipped on. Such as federal money to faith based groups that will allow hiring and dismissing policies to be dictated by faith. Get ready America...the shift has started and if elected we'll have another republican in the white house.

    August 4, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  24. Rickymo

    Everyone in this country is a racist to some degree. People need to start acknowledging this and being honest. Race has and will continue to consume this country for a very long time. We will only get beyond racism when we acknowledge it and not deny it.

    August 4, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  25. larry buchas

    I agree with you, Bill. You're not a racist. But you degraded Barack at times and that swung voters toward him. You would have been better suited if you were critical of the nut jobs attacking Barack as either a Muslim or a Black Panther.

    But Geraldine Ferraro is another story. She is a racist.

    August 4, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
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