Clintons Spend Weekend Defending Race Record

Clinton spent the weekend praising Obama and defending her record with blacks.

ByABC News via via logo

Jan. 14, 2008 — -- Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and her husband have come under fire in recent weeks because of remarks that some blacks have found offensive.

The idea that the Clintons are racists is a tough sell, but there's no question the dialogue has hurt them with black voters in South Carolina, where Democratic voters will cast their primary ballots Jan. 26.

The latest ABC News poll found that black voters who once supported Clinton, 52 percent to 39 percent, are now backing Obama, 60 percent to 32 percent.

Now campaigning in South Carolina, Clinton spent the weekend doing damage control and trying to regain ground after a 40-point swing in the last 30 days.

"I'm so proud of Sen. Barack Obama," she said at a black church in Columbus, Sunday.

Just hours earlier on "Meet the Press," she spent nearly an hour defending herself and her record of support for blacks.

"The Obama campaign is deliberately distorting this," Clinton told the show's host, Tim Russert, trying to explain why she has come under fire.

Also on Sunday Bob Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, came out in support of Clinton's record, but some say his comments only added fuel to the blaze.

"I am frankly insulted that 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 that I won't say what he was doing but he said it in his book," Johnson said.

That was interpreted by some as a reference to Obama's admitted past drug use. Johnson insisted that it was not, saying he actually had in mind the time Obama spent as a

On the Tom Joyner syndicated radio show today, Bill Clinton continued to defend his wife's record on race.

"The only racist comment made in this campaign is when the Obama campaign called Hillary the 'senator from Punjab,'" the former president said. He also called the idea that Hillary is racist "a stretch," reminding listeners that right out of college Hillary's first job was knocking on doors in poor neighborhoods as part of an effort to stem the rise in college drop-out rates among blacks.

The race controversy she's now facing started in New Hampshire, when some felt that her remarks about Dr. Martin Luther King suggested it took a white politician to realize a black man's dream.

"Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964," Clinton said in New Hampshire.

Some blacks were offended by that, but Clinton maintains it's Obama's fault, implying his campaign has been playing the race card.

"This is, you know, an unfortunate story line that the Obama campaign has pushed very successfully," she said on "Meet the Press."

Meanwhile Obama has been denying the accusation while campaigning this weekend.

"For them somehow to suggest we're injecting race as a consequence of a statement she made that we haven't commented on is pretty hard to figure out," he said in Nevada, Sunday.

The Clinton campaign is also trying to control the damage from former President Clinton's swipe at Obama at Dartmouth.

"Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen," he told a group at Dartmouth, Jan. 7.

On half-a-dozen black radio shows, Clinton has argued that he was talking about Obama's record opposing the Iraq War, not Obama's candidacy as a whole.

"I never said that he, his life or his campaign is a fairy tale. It is a serious campaign. And it might be a successful one," he said on Sirius Satellite Radio.

The campaign may have moved on to a new state, but the debate hasn't caught up. It's almost a new corollary to the Las Vegas slogan: "What happens in New Hampshire, doesn't stay in New Hampshire."

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