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. Brina

    Obama NEVER accused Bill Clinton of being a racist...not once. I think that Bill and Hillary used race baiting methods because Bill knows the ways of the South very well and he knows code words from both sides and he used them. He should really just stop commenting on this because it's starting to make him appear to be a racist that is displeased that the cat is out of the bag.

    August 4, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  2. Anonymous

    What a liar...

    Seriously Bill get over it. Your wife lost and you've been exposed for the oppurtunist that you are.

    Just say NO to Hilary for VP. She doesn't deserve it.

    Biden, Bayh, or Kaine. Those are my top 3. Obama make the right decision and pick one of these guys and lets get this campaign on the road!

    August 4, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  3. proud army and navy mom

    Bill is not a racist, but he is a lowdown, shameless liar.

    He sabotaged hillary's chance at the presidency, I think, on purpose. He used any tool he could find throw at Sen Obama and is now hurt because people called him on it.

    I voted for him twice and he abused my trust, not to mention disrespected his wife and daughter. Go sit down Bill, you've had your chance.

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

    Bill, needs to get a life – this oh so yesterday – This is a new day and everyone is trying to deal with issues that are much more important than who say what. Go ask someone who recently lost his/her job, go ask a family that recently lost their home.

    August 4, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  5. J, Philly PA

    I never thought Bill was a racist. But I hated those disparaging comments he made about Obama. He tried to belittle and dismiss Obama's victory in SC and mock him as another Jesse Jackson. Oh well, his wife didn't get the candidacy. No need still holding sour grapes!

    August 4, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  6. sffrank

    Any criticism of Obama is considered racist by the media, Race is still a major issue in the US. That is why we are spending time talking about something that shouldn't matter important(the color of someone's skin) and not on the real issues. I supported Clinton because she was and still is the strongest candidate. Does that make me racist?

    August 4, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  7. tj

    Please don't revise history. I'm not an idiot BIll. The Clintons think if they say something over and over again then it becomes public truth. The fact of the matter is he/the Clinton campaign did try to "remind" voters of Obama's race as a negative. The Jesse Jackson comment was on video tape. I saw him make it with my own two eyes. It was said in a manner that implied "Oh well black guys normally win South Carolina and who cares".

    August 4, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  8. El Diablo

    Why is everybody afraid to talk about race? If you don't think race is a major factor in this election, you're a pin head. If Obama can hold the Democrats together pretty well, then the surge of blacks coming out to vote in record numbers will cause this to be a landslide. Blacks will be voting not only for Obama, but in honor of their parents, grandparents and other ancestors who were enslaved, lynched, disenfranchised, etc.

    August 4, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  9. Jon, Pittsburgh, PA

    Any intelligent person that watched Bill's remarks regarding Obama and Jesse Jackson winning in North Carolina knows full well that they were not racist remarks, nor did they play the race card. He was asked and he said, laughing a bit, that Jackson had won in North Carolina, too. Implying that a win in NC did not equal a nomination win.

    In this case, after the Obama team spun the story as racial and the talking heads went along, it did equal a nomination win. Let's be grown ups and stop the BS. While we're at it, all Americans need to stop believing only what they choose to believe.

    August 4, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  10. me 4 obama


    August 4, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  11. bill for barack

    I'm sorry butI just don't believe him.
    He is so power-hungry that he will stoop to whatever means necessary to achieve personal victory, and if racism is oneof the tools that gets him there then so much the better.

    August 4, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  12. APS in Hawaii

    This was a ploy by Obama when he was playing the race card. Unfortunately, CNN and the news media were too stupid to realize it. Amazing how the coverage was slanted and is still slanted towards covering only the positive about Obama. The fair and balanced and the most trusted news outlets will forever have a black eye about the biased coverage for Obama.

    Just read the Obama supporter comments in this section, and you can get the reason why Hillary supporters are still angry. Obama supporters just do not get it, you have to STOP saying Obama did nothing wrong when the proof is out there. Obama ran a very dirty campaign, just that the news media let him get away with it. CNN probably won't even print this comment because of my views against the news medias.

    August 4, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  13. Tammy - KCMO

    I don't think he was racist. I do think though that at the time he and Hillary would have said and done anything to get his Hillary the nomination at the expense of the Democratic party.
    This is where they lost my vote.

    August 4, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  14. Bill from, Germantown Mayland

    racist no, womanizer – yes, disgrace to the office of the President yes. I have never beleived a word he said after the famous "I smoked pot but didn't inhale" line. Please, I am always amazed by the number of people in love with this liar.

    August 4, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  15. Bill from Woodstock

    Bill Clinton is definately not a racist and nobody ever accused him of being one. Bill Clinton, however, will do anything and say anything to advance his or Hillary's political career. I truly believe that one of the primary reasons Hillary did not win the nomination is due to Clinton fatigue - especially fatigue for Bill. He is a divisive figure in politics today (and Hillary can be also) and we need a new leadership with new ideas and positive way forward.

    August 4, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  16. norml shouldn't have went NEGATIVE!that's what people are so tired were so negative,that it appeared 'racist'.your wife lost because of it,so,please refrain from anymore 'interviews',for a while ,huh?

    August 4, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  17. James

    I have been supportive of Obama so far... But he has been playing the race card in a very abstract way lately. When confronted with criticism about it, his cronies spin it in a way that makes me think less of him.

    August 4, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  18. K of TX

    I'm sooo tired of this whole CIRCUS!!!

    Bill Clinton is not a racist (No one ever said he was), but he did make a racially insensitive comment to dismiss Barack Obama's win in South Carolina.

    The media should really be ashamed of itself. The whole strategy of heaping on negative coverage on Sen. Obama and ignoring Sen. McCain's gaffes to keep the polls close until the presidential debates so that they can maintain high ratings is quite frankly sickening! To play games with the very future of this country and possibly the world (I guarantee we will be at war with Iran if McCain is elected) all for the sake of ratings is indicative of how amoral our society has become.

    This is the most important election in recent U.S. history! Wake up citizens! The definition of insanity is acting the same way yet expecting different results. McCain has shown his true Neo-Con far right colors. Don't choose a third Bush term...we can't afford another one!

    Barack Obama 08'

    August 4, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  19. mike e.

    I believe in Bill Clinton, I also believe in his wife. They have done more for this country than the idiot that is in the white house at this time.
    The Clinton's are not racists. They will make racists cry.

    August 4, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  20. KM

    Enough with the race card stuff. Obama is black, McCain is old. Both Facts, it doesn't mean anything is wrong with them. They are just facts. Those facts will play a roll in this ellection, why can't we talk about it?

    August 4, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  21. Tara

    Also people This whole line about anyone critizising Obama being a racist or tagged being a racist is bull, That is not happening. What is happening is people are using race and racism and are trying to sheild it behind this phoney Barack is a racist or Barack is using the race card or if you say anything negative about Barack you are a racist. Tell that to Rush Limbaugh who has a song on his radio show called "Barack the Magic Negro" and its set to the tune of Puff the Magic Dragon. I think CNN should check that out. And Sean Hannity is all but making Barack out to be some Black Panther Radical. Every show Sean does is all about race and this fake reverse racism. All this crap is just code word and gives people who may not vote for him because he is black permission to do so and those who may be on the fence permission to do the same. This is a very slimmy way to covert and sometime overtly introduce race into the mix. Obama has from the beginning tried to keep race out of it. If he did talk about race it was always in response to some racism or race related charge. CNN please do your job and really report both sides.

    August 4, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  22. HappyBirthdayMrPrez.

    Bill is pissed off because he's not Black America's favorite anymore. He has NEVER or will EVER be OUR Black President. He's as bitter as they come.

    August 4, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  23. DT71

    Why would you believe a word of what the man says anyway? Not that he IS a racist, but he also did NOT have sexual relations with 'that woman' remember? Lying through his teeth as president. Come on. But then again; that's what all politicians do...

    August 4, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  24. Kevin,FL

    If you think Bill Clinton is racist you're stupid, President Clinton has done so much for so many during his time as President and as a Regular Citizen via his Clinton Foundation!

    August 4, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  25. Andrea

    Bill Clinton is not a racist. He only tried to pander to racists in the South by attempting to put Obama in the same category as Jesse Jackson. It backfired.

    August 4, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
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