Bill Clinton on Race and the '08 Race

Democratic primary battle marked with growing controversy about race.

ByABC News
January 23, 2008, 7:08 PM

Jan. 23, 2008 — -- Former President Bill Clinton traded sharp words with a television reporter in Charleston, S.C., today, claiming that stories about voters being turned off by his recent rhetoric and stories about racial issues entering this presidential contest are purely media driven.

At one point the former president reprimanded CNN reporter Jessica Yellin, saying: "This is almost like once you accuse someone of racism and bigotry, the facts become irrelevant. The first thing I'd like to say: You asked me about this. Not one single solitary citizen asked about any of this, and they never do."

Actually, that's not true.

Clinton was asked late today in rural Kingstree, S.C., about Sen. Barack Obama and how race is factoring into this campaign.

"You sound very polite talking about Obama," the voter began. "And I know we don't want anymore negative campaigning. But black America is voting for Obama simply because he is black. Obama is being elected by Republicans pretending to be Democrats, because they know that they are not ready to vote for a black president. So if Hillary loses now, a Republican is back in, and I don't care how bad they done."

"We do need Hillary back in, because she would be the president she would be the best candidate. And I would love to see a black president, not that he can't do a good job, but America still has racist problems and that is not going away. Let's hope that Hillary wins this election," the man said.

Clinton answered: "As an American, I hope you are not right. Considering the comments the Obama camp has been making the last couple of days, I should be the last person to be defending them. If he wins this nomination, I am going to do what I can to help him win this election.

"I just believe Hillary would be a better president right now because she has a better record. I regret the acrimony in the past few days. I think we should be able to disagree with each other with being accused of the things we have been accused of. We are trying to set up an America where no one votes against you cause of race or gender."