Ferraro Leaves Clinton Camp Over Remarks About Obama

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton greets Latino businesspeople after speaking to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton greets Latino businesspeople after speaking to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
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By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 13, 2008

Former Democratic vice presidential nominee Geraldine A. Ferraro resigned from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's finance committee yesterday after her suggestion that Sen. Barack Obama is where he is politically because he is black touched off a renewed round of charges that Clinton's allies are injecting race into the campaign.

Ferraro, a former New York congresswoman and the first woman to run on a major-party presidential ticket, did not apologize for her comments but said that she was resigning because "the Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you" and that she would not let that happen.

In an appearance last night before the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents more than 200 black community newspapers, Clinton was asked whether she has "done enough" to make it clear that such remarks will not be tolerated.

"I certainly do repudiate it and I regret deeply that it was said," Clinton replied. "Obviously she doesn't speak for the campaign," she said of Ferraro, adding that "she has resigned from being a member of my very large finance committee."

Clinton distanced herself from Ferraro on Tuesday, implicitly linking her comments to those of Samantha Power, an Obama aide who called Clinton a "monster" and then resigned. Clinton said it was "regrettable" that any of her supporters, or Obama's, "say things that veer off into the personal."

Obama said Ferraro's comments were "ridiculous," "wrong-headed" and "divisive," but he stopped short of calling them racist. His campaign's chief strategist, David Axelrod, told reporters on Tuesday in Pennsylvania that the remarks were "offensive" and called on Clinton to dismiss Ferraro from her campaign.

Ferraro's resignation came a day after the Mississippi Democratic presidential primary, in which Obama captured 90 percent of the black vote, highlighting the problem Clinton now has in attracting African American support. That backing began to slip in part because former president Bill Clinton compared Obama's victory in South Carolina to Jesse L. Jackson's wins there in 1984 and 1988.

Asked last night at the meeting of black publishers whether she could "regain the confidence and the trust of the African American community" after her husband's remark, Clinton replied: "I am sorry if anyone was offended. It was certainly not meant in any way to be offensive. We can be proud of both Jesse Jackson and Senator Obama."

As in her other appearances before black audiences, Clinton did not use the more aggressive critiques of Obama that have come to define her stump speeches, reflecting the delicate balance of trying to win black votes despite running against a black candidate and dealing with the controversial remarks some of her supporters have made.

On the day of the Ohio and Texas primaries last week, in a series of more than two dozen satellite interviews, Clinton repeatedly criticized Obama for taking policy stands that she considers to be inconsistent with his rhetoric. Immediately after those interviews, she went on the radio program of Tom Joyner, an African American radio personality with an audience of millions, and focused exclusively on their more policy-oriented differences, namely saying that she has more experience and a better universal health-care plan than her rival, while noting that "Senator Obama and I share a lot of the same views."

Minyon Moore, who works on black outreach for the Clinton campaign, said: "Obviously we would like to have more support from the African American community, and we will continue to work for it."

Obama supporters have suggested that Bill Clinton's references to Obama's race are part of a broad pattern and will end up harming all Democrats. Eric H. Holder Jr., who served as deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration and is now a co-chairman of Obama's campaign, said: "Some people in the other campaign have to think about not only their own interests, but the interest of the party."

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