Former President Bill Clinton's endorsement Tuesday of former aide Rahm Emanuel for mayor of Chicago has unleashed a fresh wave of criticism from members of the African-American community against the man some have deemed the country's "first black president."
Discontentment over Clinton's entry into the Chicago campaign first surfaced in December when he announced his intention to campaign for Emanuel. But it reached a new level Wednesday when former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, the "consensus" mayoral candidate among African-Americans, invoked the Monica Lewinsky scandal to chastise Clinton.
"It's just kind of surprising to have an international figure like him come into Chicago, in a local race, particularly when there's so many friends here, people who cared about him, helped him through tough times," Moseley Braun told reporters outside an Ann Sather's restaurant. "The African-American community, if you remember the polling when he had Monica Lewinsky problems, stuck by him. And then to go and to not endorse any minority candidates -- to stay out of it would have been the best thing."
Braun later repeated the reference to Lewinsky, saying, "Again, the minority community stayed with Bill Clinton when Monica Lewinsky got him, almost lost his job from him."
Earlier in the week, Moseley Braun -- who's trailed Emanuel in the polls -- said Clinton's actions amounted to "betrayal."
"He's an outsider parachuting in to support another outsider," she said in a statement.
Rep. Danny Davis, a prominent black leader in Chicago who was briefly in the mayoral race, also slammed Clinton's endorsement this week, saying it would tarnish the former president's reputation among African-Americans nationwide.
"People have always -- especially African-Americans, for a long time -- have regarded former President Clinton as a friend, political ally and as one whose goals and objectives may have been similar to theirs," Davis told CNN Wednesday. "And so I think that this will take away a bit. And there are individuals who have been former Clinton supporters who no longer will."
Clinton Defends His Record With Black Community
Racial tensions have colored the mayoral race from the outset, mirroring Chicago's historical racial-ethnic divide among blacks, whites and Latinos. Emanuel is the only white candidate in the race.
Criticism of Clinton, who has been referred to as the country's "first black president," from African-American corners also is not new.
Clinton drew the ire of some blacks during the 2008 presidential campaign for remarks that were perceived as disparaging of then-candidate Barack Obama.
In January 2008, Clinton, stumping for his wife, Hillary Clinton, seemed to suggest that Obama's campaign was a "fairy tale." Later, following the South Carolina Democratic primary, Clinton equated Obama's victory with Rev. Jesse Jackson's win in the state in 1998 -- a reference some viewed as racially-charged and dismissive.
Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina responded to Clinton at the time, telling the New York Times, "When he was going through his impeachment problems, it was the black community that bellied up to the bar. I think black folks feel strongly that that this is a strange way for President Clinton to show his appreciation."
Clinton defended his comments, insisting that his words were taken out of context and "twisted for political purposes by the Obama campaign."