August 7th, 2008
02:10 PM ET
13 years ago

Obama weighs in on racially-charged contest

(CNN) - Barack Obama weighed in Thursday on a contentious Tennessee primary race between a Jewish congressman and an African-American challenger that has been fraught with charges of racism and anti-Semitism.

The contest — between Rep. Steve Cohen and challenger Nikki Tinker — has drawn national attention for incendiary ads from Tinker’s campaign and fliers from her supporters. In one, an announcer says "While he's in our churches, clapping his hands and tapping his feet ... he's the only senator who thought our kids shouldn't be allowed to pray in school."

Another uses an image of the Ku Klux Klan because Cohen did not support the removal of the statue of a Confederate general from a Memphis park.

"These incendiary and personal attacks have no place in our politics, and will do nothing to help the good people of Tennessee. It's time to turn the page on a politics driven by negativity and division so that we can come together to lift up our communities and our country," said Obama.

Tinker also ran against Cohen in the 2006 primary battle to succeed Harold Ford Jr. in representing the majority-black Memphis district.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (143 Responses)
  1. Clinton Supporter

    Fascinating, but not surprising, that Obama should take this opportunity to scramble up to the moral high ground. He, with his Rev. Wright friend of 20+ years, he with his friend Ayres – a proud American-born terrorist, he with his buddy Rezko and the Obama homestead worth a cool million, he with his dreams of having a "different" looking face on the $5 bill, he with the staffers who escorted burkah-wearing Muslims out of camera range.

    The cunning Mr. Obama – he could write a book on racist politics – that may be his next book. Books pay big bucks, and no one has ever been more money grabbing than this Greedy Tot.

    Mouthing disapproval of the challenger's behavior doesn't cut it, Barry, not with a record like yours!

    August 7, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  2. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    One need look no farther than here in San Antonio for signs of racism in this election.

    There is bumper sticker making the rounds that shows Barack Obama in a turban, with his name written underneath it (and, of course the largest written name is Hussein, his middle name) and Barack has large "black Sambo" lips.

    The RNC elephant is on the left side in red, white and blue.

    August 7, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  3. Bob

    This should be long and gone burried and forgotten!

    August 7, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  4. Deb, Allentown, PA

    Way to go for BO! I wish he'd say the exact same thing to McCain.

    August 7, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  5. Jo

    Rep. Cohen also was quoted as likening Hillary Clinton to the Glenn Close character in Fatal Attraction with a comment something like she should have stayed dead in the bathtub. No wonder Obama thinks Cohen should be reelected.

    August 7, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  6. Ron democrat turned independent

    a good way for sen. obama to accomplish this coming together would be for him to stop ridiculing other politicians and calling them liars coming to you direct on CNN. this is something he and his supporters have been doing since the primaries first with Hillary and bill Clinton now with McCain and his surrogates.he cannot take criticism, his ego will not allow it but seems to have no problem ridiculing and debasing his opponent.and as far as racism again on CNN during his semi defence and semi denunciation of rev wright he and nobody else said his white grandmother made racial and ethnic slurs that made his skin crawl. he later said his grandmother was a typical white person why as the media not called him on that. again what sen. obama says and what he means do not jive

    August 7, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  7. ken

    The white people should learn to be inclusive not divisive!!

    August 7, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  8. biffington, biff

    Racial politics is just divisive. It does not move the country forward. It only promotes ill will on both sides.

    if you have to play race politics in order to win, then you shouldn't be running.

    my 2 cents.

    August 7, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  9. Enlightened Voters

    Once again it is the black candidate trying to play on race and motivate racial fear and tension. That, however, seems to be OK since it is impossible for the black candidate to be racist. This is why racisms can not nor ever will die. Obama and his campaign already told you McCain WILL attack his race at some point in the future, even though it has not happened nor will it. But, somehow McCain is labaeled the racist for what he might do. I think it will turn off the majority of white voters. I think the lesson of Marion Berry and Kwame Kilpatrick will tell you what it will do for black voters.

    August 7, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  10. gotcha

    Maybe Obama needs to tend to his own business, but with his Messiac complex, I suppose he thinks its his duty

    August 7, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  11. demwit

    No..., Obama's not injecting his race into the presidential elections.

    August 7, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  12. Dave

    This guy support the Confed and no praying in school..image a Black rep telling a jewish majority no praying and by the way I support the Nazi Party. C'mon get this guy out of there.

    And Obama you stay out of it..we all know what you think of church and your former pastor who supported you for 20 years while you were struggling to make it onto the Illinois Senate.

    August 7, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  13. Proud army and navy mom

    So where's the outrage over this? Where is Jesse and Al and the NAN? SOOOOO typical of the double standards.

    August 7, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  14. Connie, AL

    Well....sounds like the same old song. The problem is George Bush/McCain people, he's the one we should be fighting.

    August 7, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  15. Yetty for Obama 08!

    I'm an African American woman for Obama. Tinker should be ashamed of herself for despicable ads she has run. I hope she loses!

    August 7, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  16. Mike in Houston

    The you President..uh mean Senator Obama. That's why i love you man. You rise above the pettiness that is consuming politics in American. And shame on both of you in Tenn and your supportors for for acting like children. And you wonder why voter turn hasbeen so low for years, look at the choices we have had. That's why the election booths are going to short circuit on November 4th when it's flooded with Yes for Obama.

    Independent who is tired of "my dad is better than yours" politics

    August 7, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  17. not an obamabot, thank GOD

    Will blacks ever be held accountable for the racist crap that comes out of their mouths, or is that just a dubious honor white folks get to deal with. Funny how he will get in more trouble for responding to her, then she will for saying crap like a JEW was in the KKK, pathetic.

    August 7, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  18. Yetty for Obama 08!

    It really must be hard been Obama. Not being white enough or black enough must be a real drag! I hope Tinker loses!

    August 7, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  19. Donkey Party

    Hopefully the disgraceful McCain campaign will get the memo too.

    August 7, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  20. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    My question is how did the candidate make this connection? Is this something that is really important to the people of Tennessee? I am not from the state, but how does this really impact other issues that the two candidates will deal with in the House?

    August 7, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  21. Grandma

    McCain does not have anything to say even on his add. We know him always crying about media attention and when he has it he talk about Obama. Media putting Obama under microscope and they can not find anything and now all I see McCain TV add for free in all the stations. McCain is follower and Obama is the leader. He had all week to talk about energy and all he said all the above is my plan he never give any $ or brake down on his plan he said “ALL THE ABOVE “he means Obama plans. Please ask him what his plans are about the war he just says we need to win just like a child not just like a leader. Senator Obama is a leader young like Kennedy and Celebrity like Ragan

    August 7, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  22. Felicia

    Obama is SO FULL OF IT--if he really felt this way then why did he try to play the race card himself?

    August 7, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  23. Mike - Texas

    I guess that they see that Obama continues to play the race card and figured that if he can do it, so can we..

    August 7, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  24. jfs Memhis, Tn

    I'm in Cohen's Distr. He is a long-term popular candidate. He has done much for Tn. in the State Legislature and has done well in Washington. His district is mostly black .....but will support the candidates that supports this district. I Cast my ballot this AM for Steve and have confidence that he will easily win. Tinker has light experience has NO NEW IDEAS that would constitute a candidate change. Unfortunately she is running on race..............not a very pretty thing to evoke this election year. She needs to stop this .... most of this district has gotten over that decades ago. This is her second time to run against Cohen and she lost the first time. Maybe she can run as a republican next go around ???

    August 7, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  25. seeing the truth

    CNN please tell me how this is not race baiting...
    my grand father had a brother Lynched in Florida, my grand dad is 80 years old now, he still tells the story of how he had to cut his big brother down from the tree and how the white men who lynched him laughed as they walked away...what did his brother do...he did not cross the street when a white person walk on the side grand father also tells stories of how whites would not let his parents sell their crops and how one day a white man kicked my great grandmother in the stomach. so i know a lot of white people may not realize how even today Blacks are affected by the race game, i do not believe all white people are raciest i just feel most do not get our experience as Black people here in this country. they would rather call us victims than to realize the truth of American History dealing with race...other wise those white boys in Texas would NOT have tied that Black man to the back of their truck and dragged him to his death a few years ago. please be more mindful of your responsibility as a news station and your part in perpetuating the ignorance fear and hate that has torn this Nation apart

    August 7, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
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