Ferraro Steps Down From Clinton Campaign

Geraldine Ferraro steps down after making racially charged remarks about Obama.

ByABC News via logo
March 12, 2008, 7:25 AM

March 12, 2008 — -- The Clinton campaign confirms Geraldine Ferraro has stepped down from her role on the finance committee of Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign after making racially charged remarks about Sen. Barack Obama.

Ferraro notified Clinton by letter Wednesday that she would no longer serve on Clinton's finance committee as "Honorary New York Leadership Council Chair," reported the Associated Press.

Ferraro notified Clinton by letter Wednesday that she would no longer serve on Clinton's finance committee as "Honorary New York Leadership Council Chair."

The AP reported Ferraro wrote a letter to Clinton, saying: "Dear Hillary, I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what's at stake in this campaign. The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won't let that happen. Thank you for everything you've done and continue to do to make this a better world for my children and grandchildren. You have my deep admiration and respect, Gerry," read the letter, first reported by CNN.

Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson told the AP it was Ferraro's decision to leave the campaign.

Ferraro could not be immediately reached by ABC News for comment. Just this morning, Ferraro stood by her controversial comments suggesting Obama wouldn't be succeeding in the Democratic nomination battle if he weren't black.

"I am sorry that people think this was a racist comment," Ferraro said in an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America" Wednesday.

She declined to apologize directly for the firestorm she created when she told a local California newspaper that "if Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position."

Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential candidate, told Sawyer she was "absolutely not" sorry for what she'd said, suggesting she had tried to pay Obama a compliment.

Ferraro said she was saying that "the black community came out with ... pride in [Obama's] candidacy. You would think he would say 'thank you' for doing that. Instead, I'm charged with being a racist."

Ferraro told "GMA" she was drawing a comparison to her own history, contending that if she had not been a woman Walter Mondale would not have chosen her as his running mate in 1984 -- a point she also made in the newspaper interview.

Read Ferraro's newspaper interview here.

Obama also appeared on "GMA," fresh from his victory in Tuesday's Mississippi primary. Today he declined to say whether he believed Ferraro should be fired.

"I'll leave that to the Clinton campaign," he said, but added when people associated with his campaign have made objectionable comments, they were fired.

Obama scoffed at the notion that being black "is a huge advantage" for him. "The quickest path to the presidency [is not] I want to be an African-American man named Barack Obama," he said.

A fundraiser and outspoken supporter for Clinton, Ferraro was the first woman chosen by a major political party to be its vice presidential candidate.

In an interview Tuesday with ABC News affiliate WHTM, Clinton ignored calls from the Obama campaign to remove Ferraro from her campaign, saying, "Well, I don't agree with that, and I think it's important that we try to stay focused on issues that matter to the American people."

In a relatively mild response, Clinton continued, "And both of us have had supporters and staff members who've gone over the line, and we have to rein them in and try to keep this on the issues. There are big differences between us on the issues let's stay focused on that."

Obama chided Clinton for Ferraro's comment to a Pennsylvania newspaper.

"I don't think Geraldine Ferraro's comments have any place in our politics or in the Democratic Party," Obama told Pennsylvania's Allentown Morning Call newspaper. "They are divisive. I think anybody who understands the history of this country knows they are patently absurd. And I would expect that the same way those comments don't have a place in my campaign they shouldn't have a place in Sen. Clinton's either."

Ferraro, a 72-year-old lawyer and former congresswoman, told a California newspaper that this campaign has been "very emotional" for her and suggested Clinton has been a victim of a "very sexist media."

"I think what America feels about a woman becoming president takes a very secondary place to Obama's campaign to a kind of campaign that it would be hard for anyone to run against," Ferraro told California's Daily Breeze local paper.

"For one thing, you have the press, which has been uniquely hard on her," she said. "It's been a very sexist media. Some just don't like her. The others have gotten caught up in the Obama campaign."

Ferraro's controversial comments made news less than a week after Obama's senior foreign policy adviser Samantha Power resigned from the Illinois senator's campaign for calling Clinton "a monster.''

The Obama campaign held a conference call with reporters Tuesday with Obama supporter Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., arguing that Ferraro's words "undermine" Democrats' "ability to win in November."

"It's disappointing that Clinton supporters have sought to somehow diminish Sen. Obama's candidacy and his support by suggesting he's in some way being given preferential treatment because of his race," Schakowsky said. "Any and all remarks that diminish Sen. Obama's candidacy because of his race are completely out of line."

Schakowsky urged Clinton to call on all of her advisers and supporters to change the tone of the campaign.

Obama campaign manager David Axelrod added the comment was "part of an insidious pattern that needs to be addressed" within the Clinton campaign, pointing to Clinton's remark on "60 Minutes" that rumors of Obama being a Muslim aren't true, "as far as I know," she said.

"When you wink and nod at offensive statements, you're really sending a signal to your supporters that anything goes," Axelrod said, arguing that Clinton is seen as a "divisive and polarizing force."

The Obama campaign pounced Tuesday afternoon on Clinton's mild statement about Ferraro's remark, referring to language Clinton used when she urged Obama to denounce and reject anti-Semitic comments by Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan.

"With Sen. Clinton's refusal to denounce or reject Ms. Ferraro, she has once again proven that her campaign gets to live by its own rules and its own double standard, and will only decry offensive comments when it's politically advantageous to Sen. Clinton," Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said.

"Her refusal to take responsibility for her own supporter's remarks is exactly the kind of tactic that feeds the American people's cynicism about politics today, and it's why Barack Obama's message of change has resonated so strongly in every corner of the country," Burton said.

Ferraro is currently a lobbyist in New York with Blank Rome Government Relations.