Clinton Admits Bosnia 'Mistake'; Slams Obama Over Wright

Clinton delivers belated slam to Obama over pastor's inflammatory sermons.

March 25, 2008 — -- Sen. Hillary Clinton admitted a "mistake" in recalling a 1996 trip to Bosnia as more dangerous than footage later revealed and, turning the tables on her Democratic rival, delivered a belated slam on Sen.Barack Obama for the controversial remarks of his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

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"Given all we've heard and seen, he would not have been my pastor," Clinton said of Obama's pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright during a press conference Tuesday in Greensburg, Pa

Earlier this month, Obama distanced himself from his pastor of 20 years following media furor surrounding inflammatory remarks made by Wright.

In a speech on race last week, Obama called Wright's statements "divisive" and "racially charged" but also defended his long association with Wright, saying, "I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother … a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street."

Firing back Tuesday, Clinton compared Wright to radio host Don Imus and criticized Obama's defense of Wright.

"We don't have a choice when it comes to our relatives. We have a choice when it comes to the pastors and the churches we attend," she said.

Clinton: Bosnia Recollection 'A Mistake'

Clinton also addressed the growing controversy surrounding a 1996 trip she made to Bosnia as first lady.

Video footage offers a contradictory description of recent dramatic accounts from Clinton in which she said she and her crew landed in an "evasive maneuver under sniper fire."

"There was supposed to be some sort of greeting ceremony, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles," she said at an event in Washington last week.

At her Tuesday press conference, Clinton said she "made a mistake in describing it."

When a reporter informed Clinton that the Obama campaign was pointing out that this fabrication was becoming a pattern, Clinton insisted, "I made a mistake and, you know, I had a different memory. My staff and others all kind of come together trying to sort it out; so I made a mistake, that happens. It proves I'm human, which for some people is a revelation."

Questions surrounding whether or not Clinton embellished a 1996 trip to Bosnia are particularly embarrassing for her because she has campaigned so hard on her "experience," arguing that she is ready to answer the 3 a.m. crisis call at the White House.

Video Reveals No Visible Threat

Video footage from the trip revealed a brief greeting ceremony on the tarmac and no visible threat. A Bosnian schoolgirl read a poem. The first lady paused for pictures. She and daughter Chelsea climbed up on a guard tower.

John Pomfret, a Washington Post reporter who was there to capture the moment, said, "The whole Tuzla sector was under the control of the Americans. We were driving around in soft-skin cars. No reporters I know of were wearing flak jackets at the time. So it was pretty much a peaceful area."

Peaceful enough, at least, for a performance by Sheryl Crow and comedian Sinbad who also accompanied the first lady on the trip.

At a time when party rival Obama is vacationing with his family in the Virgin Islands, Clinton had hoped the focus would be on what had been billed as a major policy speech on the economy.

Instead, her campaign found itself on the defensive.

Carville, Chelsea Defends Clinton

On "Good Morning America" Tuesday, Democratic strategist and Clinton supporter James Carville said "it happens" with regards to Clinton's misstatement.

"She's been in public life for a long time. She's been subjected to some rather vicious attacks. Some of them have taken a toll. I think during this gain, she's shown herself to be a woman of remarkable strength and remarkable courage," Carville said.

Continuing he said, "I'm quite proud of her, and I think she'll continue down this road."

Her daughter was asked about Tuzla in Indiana and backed up Clinton's recollection.

"I support what she said," Chelsea Clinton said. "Yes, I was there as well and so honored I was there and had the opportunity to travel with her."

Clinton: 'I Misspoke'

Clinton was also asked about the incident by the editorial boards of the two Philadelphia newspapers Tuesday.

When Clinton was challenged by a reporter that this revised account calls into question her foreign policy credentials, Clinton said, "No, I went to 80 countries, you know. I gave contemporaneous accounts, I wrote about a lot of this in my book. You know, I think that, a minor blip, you know, if I said something that, you know, I say a lot of things -- millions of words a day -- so, if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement."

Autobiographical Accounts

In pictures of the event, Clinton and Chelsea don't seem to be wearing flak jackets or helmets. Clinton points out that she wrote about the Tuzla trip in her book -- without the extra details

In her autobiography "Living History," Clinton describes a near-perpendicular landing to evade possible ground fire but talks about the greeting ceremony on the tarmac in Tuzla with local schoolchildren, though she says it was cut short "due to reports of snipers in the hills around the airstrip."

During the event on the tarmac, Clinton writes: "One 8-year-old girl gave me a copy of a poem she had written titled 'Peace.' Chelsea and I presented the school supplies we had brought. ... We were then hustled off to the fortified American base at Tuzla, where more than 2,000 American, Russian, Canadian, British and Polish soldiers were encamped in a large tent city."