Race Enters the Race | News | BET.com

Race Enters the Race | News | BET.com

Published February 11, 2008

Posted Jan. 14, 2008 – Sen. Hillary Clinton, who’s been getting blasted all over Black America for recent remarks that many say are racially insensitive, claims that her comments are being twisted by her chief rival, Sen. Barack Obama. 

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"The Obama campaign is deliberately distorting this," the 60-year-old former first lady said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The New York Democrat and presidential frontrunner has been working painstakingly to counter charges that she was somehow dissing Dr. Martin Luther King when she suggested that King’s “dream” of civil rights legislation actually took President Lyndon B. Johnson to turn it into law. Some say the statement appeared to give Johnson more credit for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than King and other Black leaders who sacrificed life and limb to make it a reality.

One of those expressing disappointment with the Clinton campaign was Congress’ highest-ranking African American, Rep. James E. Clyburn (D- S.C.), the House Majority Whip and, ironically, someone who could wind up playing a key role in the important South Carolina primary on Jan. 26. Both Clinton and Obama have been drooling over his endorsement as they garb themselves for battle in a state where 50 percent of the registered Democrats are African American.

Telling NBC’s Tim Russert that she was “personally offended” by “misleading” statements about race, Clinton said she found them to be “unnecessarily hurtful.”  But Bill Burton, an Obama campaign spokesman, said, that “people were offended at her words, and she can explain them however she’d like. …However, I think that Congressman Clyburn and other leaders across the country would take great offense at the suggestion that their response was somehow engineered by this campaign.”

The 46-year-old Obama described Clinton ’s interview on “Meet The Press” as “fascinating.” He said, "She made an unfortunate remark about Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson. I haven't remarked on it. And she offended some folks who thought she diminished the role about King and the civil rights movement. The notion that this is our doing is ludicrous.”

Following her TV appearance, Clinton took the high road at a relatively small African-American church in Columbia , S.C. , Sunday afternoon. Joined by Congresswomen Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-Ohio) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and BET founder Bob Johnson, Clinton told the crowd of 200 or so parishioners at Northminster Presbyterian Church that the fact that a woman and an African American were seeking the presidency is a testament to the greatness of this nation. She also said she is proud of Obama’s candidacy.

But Johnson, who introduced Clinton at a Sunday rally, tore into Obama, making what some described as a veiled allusion to Obama’s drug use as a teen, which the Illinois senator acknowledged in his memoir, “Dreams From My Father.” “To me, as an African American, I am frankly insulted the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in Black issues — when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood; I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in his book — when they have been involved," Johnson said. The Clinton campaign, which recently fired a campaign worker for warning Democrats about Obama’s past drug use, later issued a statement from Johnson that said the billionaire mogul was merely referring to Obama's work as a community organizer in Chicago "and nothing else. Any other suggestion is simply irresponsible and incorrect."

The war between Clinton and Obama took a turn toward nasty last week when former President Bill Clinton, who was stumping for his wife, referred to Obama as a “kid” and said the Illinois senator was living a “fairytale.” Democratic strategist Donna Brazile quickly jumped on Bill Clinton’s words, saying they had racial overtones and were unbecoming a man of his stature. The phone lines lit up on such prominent syndicated Black-hosted talk radio shows as “The Power” with Joe Madison, “The Steve Harvey Show” and The Michael Baisden Show, as angry callers blasted Clinton for the comments.

Are the Clintons deliberately trying to work race into the campaign, or are people blowing things out of proportion? Click "Discuss Now" to post your comment.

Written by BET-Staff


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