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. Just a Mom

    I understand that who and what is racist depends on your perspective; but, I don't trust Mr. Clinton. I remember him making another emphatic statement, " I did not have sexual relations with that woman" not that long ago.

    August 4, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  2. Just Me

    Bill Clinton is not a racist. He is simply a man who was trying to help his wife achieve her goals. He has become testy and difficult when he realized that the press wasn't giving her the fair coverage he received. The media isn't aware yet that they gave the nomination to Obama. It was the same thing in 2000 when they kept giving the "wins" to pres. Bush for the debates. He was so stupid that when he said anything remotely intelligent, the press said "Oh look at that... he said something smart, well he won." It was deplorable then and it is deplorable now. We need a more responsible, less partisan press.

    August 4, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  3. paul

    Bill Clinton is Not a racist that i know of....Did he say some things inappropiate most likely,but i think it was from his immense desire to win...If obama had been white Smacking Hillary in Elections i think Bill would Most likley Said some inappropiate things about the White Guy...I think that Comes from Bill Clinton's Desire to Win.......Rember the Old George Bush Him and Clinton Was Friends,and Clinton ran his Friend over basically and took his Job...Bill Said if Bush never Forgave him basically never got over it he would understand...The Older bush was Really Nice to Clinton and then clinton took his job...Rember the "it's the Economy Stupid" ...So i think Bill Has a High Desire to win...Doesn't Make him a Racist...An "Opporuntist" ??? Perhaps but a Racist Not for a Fact....

    August 4, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  4. Emilia Jones

    I am African and still very angry that Bill and Hilary were labeled racist. They care more about Africa than Barack Obama does. The Clinton's gave blacks a lot of opportunities during his term as President and this is how they get paid.

    I have notices that Obama is pompous, arrogant, whines a lot and loves to play the race card. Then turns around when he is called on it, to say the other party is racist.

    He did not even find it necessary to include one of the African countries in his world tour, and people expect us to vote for him. I don't think so.

    If he wins the presidency, most black Americans will be sadly disappointed, because he will just be just another Caucasian in office. He will not do anything different for black Americans.

    Just look at the color of his advisers, how many dark skinned black’s do you see?????????????????

    Yes, you guessed it, I am a Hilary support and I have not decided yet whether to vote for Obama or stay home in Novermber. Personally, to me a vote for Obama equals the same as voting for McCain. I will not benefit either way.

    August 4, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  5. T Guy



    August 4, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  6. crm

    I would like the people making the comments about who is, or who is not a racist, to please give your definition of "racism".

    August 4, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  7. scott

    Bill Clinton is not a racist by words but by actions. Democrats had 8 years of the first "Black President". What did he do for the black community-the same Obama will do-Nothing but tell them the repubs are evil and you need the dems to fight for you. Dems have kept them as a voting pool and convinced them government money is the only way they can live. What a shame.

    August 4, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  8. Scott, Phoenix

    The only ones bringing up the issue of race are Democrats. I guess if they don't play the race card they must feel they don't have a chance of winning

    August 4, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  9. Michael Belanger

    Hey Michael, I live in New England. Am I racist?

    August 4, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  10. Robert

    It's one of the things that will not allow me to vote for Obama. His supporters accused us all of being racists if we supported someone ofther than their hero.

    Of course, now that we find out that EVERYTHING he said during the primary was a lie and he never intended to follow thru on anything, I am extremely glad that I decided to vote against him in the general election.

    August 4, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  11. Kongtooth

    If you don't support Obama you're a racist... even if the guy is a compete tool... doesn't matter...

    So yes... the Clintons must be racist.... "Sarcasm"

    August 4, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  12. S J Ryan

    It's sad to see an ex president being outlandish just to get into the papers. It's so Fox News. What's next for Bill – Jerry Springer? Please try to hang on to what's left of your dignity for the sake of future generations.

    August 4, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  13. Bill


    You are not a raciest and I don't recall you being called that either. However you are predjudice as we all are at some point. In your case you are predjudice against anyone opposed to your wife view or your view for that matter. People have to understand that. We are all predjudice. Raciests just hate, predjudice just don't agree with another's view point on life.

    I am predjudice against some of Obama and Clinton platforms, but I like them both as people and respect them. I am even more predjudice against McCain's platform, but I don't hate him.

    Bush, I hate him for all he stands for, but considering I am white, I guess I am not a raciest.

    August 4, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  14. don

    Bill Clinton is many things, but he and his wife are not racists. We have devolved into anyone how doesn't show a lot of respect for the One or his family, is a racist. Thank god Bill is standing up for being the unfair target of His weekly hit squads' attacks on HRC. The greatest treachery is the One's claim of being a uniter of interests. He and his cronies have all the appearances of exactly the opposite.

    August 4, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |

    He is the FURTHEST thing there is from a racist!!!

    August 4, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  16. david





    August 4, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  17. dAVE

    I don't think the Clintons are racist, but there is NO DOUBT they used others' racism as a politcal weapon in the primary. This is not deniable.

    August 4, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  18. Tony

    Bill Clinton is not a racist. He is a great American, as is Senator Clinton. Go Obama!

    August 4, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  19. And the winner is:

    Bill Clinton's 'comments' are a day late and a dollar short. The damage has been done.
    It's exactly as they had planned it, and if Hillary couldn't have the nomination, than the goal was to destroy Obama so she could run again in 2012.
    NEWSFLASH: I will not vote for her for dogcatcher.
    Billary is/are sickening.

    August 4, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  20. Gunter Kauffman

    He was the best President of the U.S.A. by all accounts. We the American People own him our permanent grattitud, we were a lot better off after he left the White House. Thanks Bill and Hillary/2012 .-

    August 4, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  21. Michelle, PA

    In this campaign, Race is the elephant in the room nobody on any side can address on any level without being labeled as racist or playing the race card. Of course it's an issue. Of course if you're going to give accurate political commentary, you're going to mention it. Is Bill Clinton a racist? No. Did he, and Obama, and McCain, get caught violating the racial taboo? Yes. How about an historical two-sided, honest conversation about race, gender, and all forms of inequality in this historical election year without everybody getting hysterical about it?

    August 4, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  22. NC Man

    i'm not a clinton fan but it's shameful how the dems throw him under the bus in turn to promote obama. after all he has done for blacks in the US and this is the thanks he gets.....the media turning him into a racist i would still be upset too. sure the dems are so loving and caring that they eat their own

    August 4, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  23. bulldog

    He made racist comments, plain and simple. he might not be a racist but he made the comments. Video doesn't lie.

    August 4, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  24. Cynthia

    Hmm. Clinton is trying to clean up his rep and if that doesn't work he will go out and campaign for Senator Obama.

    August 4, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  25. Lacey

    If Bill CLinton can't say anything that would lead to a Democratic win in November, he should just stay in Africa and not say anything at all. Of course we know he's not racist. He likes Black women. He likes all kinds of women. Stay in your "spoiled" corner, Bill. A liar mught just be capable of anything. You have not stood by your word to "campaign your heart out." Why should we believe anything you have to say? The race was a hard one for you to lose and because you are an opportunist, you are taking this moment to "let loose." This world does not belong to Bill Clinton.

    August 4, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
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