Ferarro: Obama Where He Is Because He's Black
Clinton disagrees with statement but former VP candidate stays with campaign.
March 11, 2008 — -- In another twist to the bitter battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, a member of Sen. Hillary Clinton's finance committee, vented her frustration with Sen. Barack Obama's campaign success in racially charged remarks.
"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," Ferraro told a local California newspaper last week.
"And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept," Ferraro said.
Ferraro, a fundraiser and outspoken supporter for Clinton, was Walter Mondale's 1984 Democratic vice-presidential nominee — the first woman nominated by a major political party as its candidate for vice president of the United States.
In an interview with ABC News affiliate WHTM, Clinton, D-N.Y., 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 reign 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 local 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 Senator Clinton's either."
Ferraro, a 72-year-old lawyer and former congresswoman, said this campaign was "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," she said.
Ferraro's controversial comments have made news less than a week after Obama 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 Senator 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 to 60 Minutes that rumors Obama is 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 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 herself used when she urged Obama to denounce and reject anti-Semitic comments by Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan.
"With Senator 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 Senator 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, currently a lobbyist in New York with Blank Rome Government Relations, did not return ABC News requests for comment. She is expected to appear on ABC News "Good Morning America" Wednesday.
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