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. Deb, Allentown, PA

    Andy, and I Can't Believe yadda yadda yadda....

    And anyone who's against McCain is obviously ageist, right? Give me a break. There are obviously a number of people who appear on the blogs who, through the key words they seem to always exhibit in their posts, are obviously racist. Those are the people who show us, each time they open their mouth, one of the worst elements of the Republican party.

    There are racists on the Democratic side as well. Anyone who votes for or against someone simply based on the color of their skin is equally guilty of racism.

    We ALL have to get past that and vote for whomever represents the best hope at turning this country around. McCain is NOT that hope.

    August 4, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  2. Enlightened Voter

    Sorry Bill, but I lost all respect for you and your wife during the primaries when you guys lied, lied and continuously lied. It became all about the two of you winning, you two didn't give a darn about the people. And your attacks on Obama were unwarranted.

    August 4, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  3. Milton, Harrisburg, PA

    Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Trent Lott, and David Duke have all claimed at one time or another that the Democrats should be ashamed pulling the race card whenever it suits them. Then again, is this who we should be listening to? My preference is to look to the clergy for models of tolerance... and a divinely inspired lack of bigotry you know Ted Haggert, Jerry Falwell, Bob Jones, Pope Innocent III...and the rest.

    Empirically, based on the percentage of blacks and women in this country, we should have had multiple black men and women as President by now. The fact that we don't by 2008 is certifiable evidence that we live in both a sexist and racist society. Even if we (ever) do get a woman President or (half) black man as President, it hardly means mission accomplished. One can hardly claim that there simply haven't been competent female or black candidates in the past given our current low standard of competence for our current president.

    August 4, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  4. MikeH

    Me thinks thou dost protest too much.

    No one ever called you a racist Bill. You brought it up (and still do so).

    Just let it go and move on.

    August 4, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  5. Val, Atlanta, Ga

    I am so sick of Republicans saying if anyone say anything about Sen Obama then its racist, THATS A LIE, its amazing how Republicans can tell so many lies till they REALLY start believing it themselves, So I guess that means if I start talking about McCain then I don't like OLD PEOPLE that was only able to get a high school education, RIGHT. Republicans should learn how to pay fairly,

    August 4, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  6. Jonathan, Hartford, CT

    This is just more lies from the Obma supporters.

    The Obama supporters think that you are either FOR Obma or you are a racist. It is just illogical. To claim that Obama is not doing as well as his supporters have expected in the polls is due to racism, is not true. This is the ugliest misrepresentation of facts I have ever heard.

    The closeness of the poplular vote in the Democratic primary is evidence that about half of Democrats liked Hillary's ideas and about half liked Obama's ideas. Don't make race a big deal where none exists. If Harold Ford, Jr. was running in Obama's place, he might be doing much better than Obama. It is Obama and not his color. In fact, if Obama was opposing Harol Ford, Jr. and one was winning over the other some silly people would prabably attribute it to one having darker skin. That is just how ugly this race issue has become.

    Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton are not racist. I don't think John McCain is racist. This smacks of McCarthyism. Stop this evil.

    August 4, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  7. John for Obama

    Get a grip, Obama is post-racial.

    No one thinks Bill is racist. During the primary season, he said it woudl be great to have a black president, but he said that his wife could do a better job this term.

    This post is just filler.

    August 4, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  8. AJ

    who cares? why should he have to explain? why do Democrats care so much and ignore terrorism and the economy and turn lights out to avoid debate in congress?

    michelle obama IS racist

    August 4, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  9. JB

    Bill Clinton is not a racist. Bill only said what was true and what the media was saying at the time. Jessie did win in SC and got most of the black vote. What's racist about that? Obama's campaign has a pattern of using the race card to his advantage against his opponents, this is now well known like when he used it against John McCain and the GOP last week saying "they will say I don't like like the man on the dollar bill." Obama loves to play the victim of racism.

    August 4, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  10. Brett

    Obama camp likes to blame to everyone who anti-Obama, made them to "racist"


    August 4, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  11. California Gold

    I'm not convinced Bill Clinton is a racist, but he did make horrible statements about other candidates during the primary. Nothing changes what he said and the conviction he had when he spoke. Whether or not that makes him a racist is not the issue. BC is capable of lashing out on the most severe ways at anyone who is in his way. The man wrote the book on throwing people under the bus and in doing so was the only Presidential candidate to beat the Republican smear campaign ads. What does it mean when he goes on national TV and exclaims he isn't a racist? Reminds me of the time he looked the camera straight on and exclaimed "I did not have sex with that person". Got it.

    August 4, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  12. Kevin, Austin

    Nobody has accused Bill of being a racist. Nobody has accused those who are against Obama as racist.

    I think those of you who are against him are just way too sensitive. It's almost like you want to say, "see I have a black friend." Just relax.

    Now if you say something like "A terrorist fist bump? or "Well Jesse Jackson won South Carolina too" or "Well I'm not going to vote for Obama because he's a Muslim" then you may not necessarily be a racist, but you do share one common trait with them – IGNORANCE. And we're going to call you out on it, whether you're the ex-president, a citizen in West Virginia or a Fox News commentator.

    August 4, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  13. REG in AZ

    I don't think it would be fair or accurate to call either of the Clintons a racist. What their problem is, is that they have a warped sense of entitlement and think they are do whatever they want, then they say/do whatever they think will get them what they want without a conscience. But not racist by ideology.

    August 4, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  14. NMB

    Ok, so he just ACTED like a racist – but he's not one....

    It's all about you, Bill – right?

    What's done is done. Move on.

    August 4, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  15. therealist

    Rasicts, no. Finger wagging liar, yes!

    August 4, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  16. Peter

    Bill Clinton is far from racist, nor did the Obama campaign ever claim he was. He may have said thing that were racially insensitive at poor times that hurt Hillary, but he isn't racist. I just think it's time to move forward as a party, and stop the meaningless bickering.

    Obama/Clinton '08

    1 Party. 1 Voice. 1 Goal.

    August 4, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  17. Melissa in PA

    The racist issue will always continue as long everyone labels everything a racist issue. Why does ever comment have to be racist? Why can't it just be a comment?

    August 4, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  18. ET from OMAHA

    Of Course Bill is not racist he was just doing what he can to elect his wife. But unfortunately by doing so he made some contreversial race remarks which probably put some fuel on the fire. Just the same way the racist GOP base always get exited on issues about race or other social issues.
    The only thing I hate about the clintons is that being popular in not en entitlement to the presidency. They fail to accept their defeit with calm and resignation.
    They are in a Big Delema. Who knows if they are not wishing silently of an Obama defeit in November which will made Hillary run in 2012.
    If they are perceived to be the cause of an Obama defeit even in 2012 they will not have a chance.
    How to solve that puzzle, the ball is in their camp.

    August 4, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  19. Beca

    How in the heck a racist can do so much for Africans? He is not a racist! The racist are those accusing him, they are insecured people with a big low self esteem.

    August 4, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  20. joseph marcucilli

    Nobody called Bill Clinton a racist but Bill Clinton brings it up anyway.Obama should stay as far away from this narcissist as possible.

    August 4, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  21. Caryn, WDC

    I don't think anyone truly believes that Bill Clinton is a racist but that doesn't mean that his comments after the South Carolina primary were uncalled for and offensive. It's also naive to believe that Hillary didn't think Obama had a fireball's chance in hell of winning the primary.

    August 4, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  22. Demo Joe

    So Bill you are not a racist? Yes you are!!! you used race as a card in this campaign. I had respect for Bill Clinton and his wife. But they took care of that feeling. I don't respect them and I will – and I will NEVER vote democrat just because I am a democrat. I will vote on how a campaign is ran in the future. I know people called you names when you ran Bill, I remember. We stood up for you and you used the same lines on us. How soon we forget when it is something that we want. I will always dislike you for what you and your wife did in this campaign. It was not necessary! Black people would have voted for your wife or Obama – NO MATTER who came out. But you both made it a mud mess and now you say you are not a racist. That is a lie! A big fat lie. You're not better than the right wing – at least we know where they stand. TO me your kind is the worst racist. You smile and use us and when you want your way you stab us in the back. Good luck on being forgiven for this one.

    August 4, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  23. Isabella

    I think everyone should move forward we are so busy fighting amongst ourselves while China and India are building themselves. Remember these economies weren't touched by the subprime mess and their banks are so much bigger in value.By the time we realize it will be too late.

    August 4, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  24. J

    Talk about something that is IMPORTANT!!!! You shameless entertainment company.

    August 4, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  25. Pam

    Bill, Bill, Bill...jealousy is such an ugly emotion.

    August 4, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
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