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. James

    Thank God I'm a Black man that can see through the Obama rock-star image.

    More African-American men need to lead their families and neighborhoods away from voting for this man. He isn't here to help you or I, he is here to help himself. Wait for a better man, a more qualified man!

    August 7, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  2. Lyle

    Mr. Obama doth protest too much, methinks.

    Mr. Obama’s race-based campaign is perhaps the most divisive in history and has caused irreparable damage to the Democratic Party and the United States.

    August 7, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  3. Franky

    Me personally, I don't pretty much care if they go negative or not. Hey, if race and gender is gonna solve our problems, then go right ahead...

    August 7, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  4. Peter E

    Democrats... these are the people who told you that when whites break for Hillary 55-45% they are being 'racist' (in progressive states like Pennsylvania, New York, and California too) but when blacks go for Obama 90%-10% in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Mississippi (some of the most de-facto segregated states to this day), they are NOT being racist?

    August 7, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  5. gene

    Sad to say... but I was just in Tennessee.. and I'll tell you what... racially charged is the perfect word. I was listening to local radio talk shows out there.. the most racial bunch of crap I ever heard. I hate to think that this is the general mentality of the Tennessee resident.

    I heard nothing but Obama bashing... and the infamous "N" word seems to come out of the mouths of the people there just about as naturally as "Hello". I feel sorry for that Tinker lady out there... because I now know what she must go through living there.

    I thank god that the rest of the country isn't like that.. and thank god I don't live in Tennessee.

    August 7, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Would a reasonable person from Texas please post and prove you're not all Neanderthals?

    August 7, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  7. R.I.F.

    PUMAs true colors are really starting to come out on this one. As suspected, beyond the fact that many PUMAs are really republicans stirring the pot, it appears that there are quiet a few who also have a bit of a problem with blacks. Please go up and read a couple PUMA comments and judge for yourself.

    August 7, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  8. Texas trail puppy!

    Matt-NE August 7th, 2008 2:34 pm ET

    Following that statement, Obama promptly said, "Why are all the white people picking on my poor black self?"

    I am a Obama supporter but thanks for the laugh Matt-NE, anyway Obama is as black as he is white so he could also have said, " Why are all the black people picking on my poor White self?" Lets all do ourselves and America a favor by leaving "RACE" out of this "race".

    August 7, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    If anyone believes McCain when he accused Obama of playing the race card when Obama referred to his face on US currency, think again. McCain flat out lied, and MSM has not called him on it.

    Remember when Obama had displayed that new campaign logo back in June when he was in New Orleans I think it was. Camp McCain hit back with a website video that made a mockery of the logo. It showed Obama's face on the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, and a $100 bill.

    Last week McCain denied that ever occurred. I suppose he could. When the video was released, it did not have that "...I endorse this message..." blurb on it. The video was seen as having the potential to be racially charged so it was taken down within hours, and some aide was reportedly dismissed. But, the purpose had already been served.

    August 7, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  10. R.I.F.

    kathryn August 7th, 2008 3:16 pm ET

    I thought Roland Martin talked yesterday in his editorial that "the Obama campaign is afraid to inject any race in to this process" and yet here Obama is injecting himself into a racially charged issue that has NOTHING to do with him.

    Once you are the presumptive nominee for president then you automatically become the head of that party so this actually DOES have something to do with him because these are two democrats slugging it out.

    Kathryn – I guess some people do take pride in being ignorant.

    August 7, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  11. Independent-Latina-for-OBAMA


    Let's not even get into the Jim Crow laws! All the linchings throughout the SOUTH IT WAS LEGAL TO LYNCH A BLACK MAN. SO PLEASE, READ UP ON HISTORY! AND FACE THE FACTS AND THE TRUTH!

    Its SO sad that a Jewish candidate and an African-American one, can not rise above prejudice!

    And people start to get all bothered when Sen. Obama mentions (and rightly so) that he does not look like the men on our currency! Point made.

    August 7, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  12. Tom

    Ready some of this stuff makes me ashamed to be white.

    August 7, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  13. Lady


    I mean educational qualifications.What college did he attend?What degree does he have?What books has he written by himself not by other authors?what exactly qualifies to him be Commander-in-Chief?

    I am not asking about POW.That is not a qualification,it is was his job and what happened happened.


    August 7, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  14. Tony Z- MD

    I am amazed at how people bring up Rev. Wright. Yes, he did go there for 20 years. How many of you really know Rev. Wright beyond what you heard in the media? Do you know he operated on President Johnson? Do you know he was invited to the Clinton White House?

    To Texas Trail Dog- As an African American- I agree with you. The only thing left for America to do is apologize. It what was done for other groups. We need to move away from comments by Pat Buchanan that coming to America was the best thing to happen to blacks.

    As Americans- we need to move beyond our racist past. A country divided will fall. Look around we are falling. Jobs are leaving. The economy is in the tank. We need to come together and work together. That is what America is really about.

    At the end of the day, we are one country with liberty and justice for all.

    August 7, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  15. clinton supporter

    Good for Obama, I applaud him for that!

    August 7, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  16. Caine

    Obama has placed the race card from day 1. I'm so TIRED of this cat. GO MCCAIN.

    August 7, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  17. Rob

    Many people feel that Obama used race to smear both Clintons. Now he is telling "lessimportant" people to be above it.

    White people HATE being called racist when they try to be impartial.

    Obama uses race for political gain. This is an opportunity to appear he is above dirty politics. Really Obama is the dirtiest in history, accusing the most highly regarded living democrat, Bill Clinton, of being racist.

    Obama used up all his fuel, if he tries to use racism in general election, it will only hurt him.

    August 7, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  18. TerryDo--PumaPac-40+

    Jo August 7th, 2008 2:43 pm ET

    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.


    I did not know that Cohen likened Hillary to Fatal Attraction.

    So, we have racists and misogynists in Tennessee.

    I take my previous post back and ask all citizens in Tennessee to NOT vote for Cohen but an Independent.

    August 7, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  19. empty vessel

    "August 7th, 2008 2:50 pm ET
    Hopefully the disgraceful McCain campaign will get the memo too."

    Any actual facts Donkey Party or are you like the "messiah" who makes stupid remarks with no basis of fact and when he is called on it, his campaign LIES just like they LIED about the Dollar Bill remark "that is not what we meant" and then later had to recant by STATING that John McCain will USE RACIST TACTICS WITH NO, NONE, ZERO, ZILCH, NADA basis for saying that about McCain.

    The chosen one is DONE as he did this crap against Bill Clinton and guess what, he hasn't forgotten about the smears either and they will happily throw a wrench in his winning this year so Hillary can win in 2012.

    Would you McCain haters who are calling him a racist be stunned to know that this RACIST, adopted a beautiful African American child a few years back?

    Keep drinking the Obama Kool-aid, but Kool-aid has killed before.

    Empty vessel, empty ideas, empty rhetoric.

    August 7, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  20. Chuck

    I was going to ask McCain regarding promises if he thought "his" promises meant much. But when reviewing McCain's speeches and town hall comments I realized that McCain has not made any promises. McCain has stated plenty about what we need. If you follow his comments they are as follows: "we need this or we need that". But there is never any folllow-up proposals of any kind as to how we are supposed to get what we need. So I guess we can't ask McCain if he thought any of his promises meant much. If people do not like or don't trust Obama's promises that is fine, but at least Obama provides something that a person can study and determine whether they are empty or not. McCain offers nothing.

    August 7, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  21. Janice

    blah blah blah blah blah – good lord aren't you people sick of this fool yet.

    Vote Bob Barr – A true believer in individuals rights

    August 7, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  22. sarah

    wow. obama thrives on negativity and divisivnes, and yet he has the gall to tell these people "do as i say not as i do".

    August 7, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  23. Roy P

    He has made this a racially charged race. His opinions are becoming less and less important.

    August 7, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  24. Marie in California

    Shame on Tinker! He is so sick and twisted! If he didn't live in Tennesse I'd swear he'd just stepped out of Jeremiah Wright's hate-filled church! I hope he loses.

    As for Obama "weighing in" on this racially-loaded matter.....he shouldn't even go there. His campaign has been dealing the race card from the bottom of the deck (sneaky!) since South Carolina. Same thing.....just more suave and covert.

    Was for McCain all the way!

    August 7, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |

    Well, I am glad Obama weighed in on this. He is, indeed, an expert at race baiting and playing the race card for political gain.

    August 7, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
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