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Obama's Farrakhan answer gives Clinton an opening

When you've debated as often as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have, it's hard to find fresh material to spar over. But -- who knew? -- Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan provided such fodder Tuesday night. And the result may have been some crucial points scored by Clinton in their face-off in Ohio.

Obama said he denounced and rejected support from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan

At the least, Obama appeared to dance around how far he should distance himself from the unsolicited backing he received over the weekend from Farrakhan until Clinton cornered him. At that point, he both denounced AND rejected that support.

Obama had been asked a straightforward question by moderator Tim Russert: Did he accept Farrakhan's support.

The following exchange occurred:

Obama: "You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments. I think they are unacceptable and reprehensible. I did not solicit this support. He expressed pride in an African American who seems to be bringing the country together. I obviously can't censor him, but it is not support that I sought. And we're not doing anything, I assure you, formally or informally with Minister Farrakhan.

Russert: "Do you reject his support?"

Obama: "Well, Tim, I can't say to somebody that he can't say that he thinks I'm a good guy."

True enough, but probably ...

not the answer most Jewish Americans wanted to hear. As a result, Obama risked creating the perception for some that he might be somewhat reluctant to completely throw overboard a controversial leader who is not without some stroke within the black community (witness the 1995 Million Man March).

Clinton clearly saw it that way, and sought to put Obama on the spot. She interjected that, during her initial Senate run in 2000, she was endorsed by a splinter party in New York that "was under the control of people who were anti-Semitic, anti-Israel. And I made it very clear that I did not want their support. I rejected it. ... And there's a difference between denouncing and rejecting."

Obama responded: "I have to say I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting."

He needs to check a dictionary on that.

Then he decided to yield the point: "But if the word 'reject' Sen. Clinton feels is stronger than the word 'denounce,' then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce."

He could have saved himself some potential grief if he had been less circular arriving at that point.

-- Don Frederick

Comments () | Archives (212)

The comments to this entry are closed.

I thought Obama was clear, unlike Hillary who remains evasive on releasing her financial and White House records.

Obama was ambivalent about Farrakhan's endorsement for the simple fact that he has the votes from 70 to 90 percent of the African American voters. To denounce and reject Farrkhan might alienate some of those voters, but he cannot have it both ways. Farrakhan is a divisive figure, and Obama is after the same group of people that Bush reached in 2000 with his campaign as a 'uniter not a divider".

I think that it is without merit for you to say that Senator Obama tried to hedge his response to Russert about Minister Farrakhan support for him. Senator Obama was understood by those of us that were watching the debate, knew exactly, what he was saying. As an American I find it mighty objectionable to attempt to tie a man or woman to comments of others. It is very strange that "I" have never heard any of these journalists demand that other Jewish leaders denounce another Jewish leader, why is that! I don't recall reading anywhere that there were any Jews being asked to denounce Michael Richards for his bigoted tirade against American Blacks.


if we're going to call out Barack Obama because his pastor may not like Jewish people, does that mean we get to ask Clinton's pastor what they think of homosexuality?

have we been reduced to judging people by their spiritual advisor, whose views on such matters have nothing to do with whatever passages from the Bi(b)le they read that week?

I posted this on another blog and I'll post it here...If any Clinton or McCain supporters don't consider that Obama is also white, born and raised American then they represent some sort of deep-seated racism.

Interestingly - denounce is pretty obviously a much stronger condemnation than rejecting someone's support which wasn't asked for in the first place. Look up denounce in the dictionary - it's pretty clearly worse, in particular as it discusses the implication of something denounced being evil. People can try to spin this however they want, but he made it clear that he doesn't support Farrakhan - and there is no evidence otherwise.

Will Hillary publicly denounce and reject the support of those who won't vote for Barack because he is black and/or perceive him to be Muslim?? By the looks of her blog supporters there go 40% of her votes there.

A shallow attempt by LA Times to inject some good into what was a petty display by Clinton. Tonight was the clear separation of a leader from a frustrated loser.

I felt very uncomfortable about Obama's answer to the Farrakhan question. I don't understand why he didn't immediately reject Farrakhan's support outright. Why the waffling and parsing?

Desperate Desperate Desperate Desperate!!!!!

It's clear someone is getting their talking points against Hillary from the media. I hate how one-sided the terminology used to describe the candidates is when used to cover two worthy opponents.

And as Democrats, we should worry about the relationship between Obama and Jeremiah Wright of the Trinity United Church of Christ. Their current newsletter has a glowing article about Farrakhan. My dad sent me an email and I was sure it was an Urban Legend because he sends me ones all the time that are totally false, like Obama's a secret muslim etc. But I'm a researcher for a living and I checked it out and it's all true.

And Obama didn't initially say that he denounced "Farrakhan"...only that he denounced his anti-semetic statements. There is a difference between saying "hey, I don't believe in some of what the guy say's but it's a free country and I'm not going to stop him for endorsing me"...and saying "I reject the support of the obvious racist Farrakhan!"

Clinton did a good job of pointing that out. She had an actual point...and listen folks, I'm liberal as hell and I was worried about some of what I read on Obama's church website...what will middle America think when he's up against McCain in the general election? I fear it won't be pretty. Can we say "Swiftboat" anyone?

I think BHO actually admires Farrakhan in the same way his Pastor Wright admires him and gave Farrakhan an award as a leader. From an article on the subject...

Obama's spiritual advisor and Pastor of his church, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., a man who prayed with Obama just before the Illinois senator announced his run for the presidency, gave the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award to a man it said "truly epitomized greatness."

Re: "probably ... not the answer most Jewish Americans wanted to hear."

I am a Jewish American and don't appreciate the author(s?) of this piece writing generalizations about what "most" of us want to hear or not.

I myself feel that there were some coded dynamics in that exchange in the debate. Specifically, I feel that Senator Clinton pushed a point that was far deeper, more complex, and uglier than what might show on the surface.

I feel she used "Jewish Americans" as a shield and stand-in -- as an object for her to hide behind to implicitly (but with plausible deniability) question Senator Obama's loyalties to white people overall.

I feel that what she did was an example of a certain type of white Christian anti-Semitism that is very subtle, pretty powerful -- and to me, very painful.

I feel that Senator Obama handled a very ugly situation gracefully and with dignity in all of his answers on the topic.

I also feel angry and upset that he had to "handle" such ugliness at all. I wish I could extend my apologies to him for what Senator Clinton did in using my people as she did.

For the record, she did not have this Jew's permission to use us as I think she did. As far as I'm concerned, the shame about anti-Semitism in that exchange is squarely on Senator Clinton, for aggressively playing the ugly game that she played and using us that way.

Bottom line: Obama said he didn't like Farrakhan's anti-semitic comments, but danced around and refused to flat out say he did not want the support of Farrakhan and his anti-semitic followers until Hillary put him on the spot. That says something about him.

For those confused over the meaning of these two words consider this example. Perhaps, if Hillary had rejected Bill's help, she'd be doing better. Naturally, she wouldn't want to denounce him. Thats going a bit too far.

The Question 'Do you support Louis Farrakhan?'

Obama's answer should have been ...

If Louis Farrakhan support is about bringing his politics to the table, No I Don't support him.
But if he endorses my politics then yes I would support him and that would require some changes in his ideas.

I again completely reject title of this post.

Obama's Farrakhan isn't fair! Change the title of this post because its going to linger a long time on this list.

Obama doesn't own anything of Farrakhan to reject and it shouldn't be suggested he has to answer questions about him.

What's the thought, Obama's black, from Chicago and with a Muslim name has to comment on Farrakhan's slanted views. Has to stop Farrakhan from making biased statements.

That's not his role and reporters are framing him to do it.

Reporters go ahead and challenge Farrakhan because you want to. Don't demand that of Obama.

Obama's response was excellent. The LA Times "writer" needs to focus on substantive issues, not manufactured tripe. And Tim Russert ought to consider a permanent position with his pal Imus.

Please read the transcript of what Obama said and what the moderator and Clinton response are.

Obama wasn't strong enought to state that he "rejected the *support* of this mad man. Instead, he simply stated that he thought that the *comments* that his mad man made were unacceptable and reprehensible. Obama never stated that HE DID NOT want this mad man support.

The issue that the moderator and then Clinton wanted to hear from Obama was "Does Obama reject the *support* of this mad man". Obama danced around this initially and only when conored Obama then tried to imply that the moderator and Clinton were splitting hairs. THEY WEREN"T.

Clinton made a stronger statement and didn't hedge her bets with her experience. She came out and not only stated that these comments made by this anit-semetic party in NY were wrong but went a step further and stated that SHE DOES NOT WANT the support from these anti-semtics - She rejects their *SUPPORT*.

That is the issue and Obama failed in a MAJOR WAY. Those who don't think that this is important or somehow think that this is splitting hairs really need examine the debate transcript and think harder. This is an extremely important issue.

Now I like both candidates alot but my respect toward Obama's crediability had gone down a notch or two. This is unfortunate but this was an excellent question and the moderator had an excellent follow-up question and then Clinton really conored him on his behavior.

Marc Polonsky hit the nail on its head when he wrote of Obama: "he invoked historic Jewish-African American alliances, such as the civil rights struggle. This in my view is healthy and unifying political speech."

As an African-American I too noticed that comment and found it poignant. For decades I have yearned and indeed hoped for a return of the pre-COINTELPRO days when there was a strong link between Jewish and African-American communities.

Having a US president who believes that hope can self-actualize results is the reason why Obama has my vote.

Hopefully there a lot of us Jewish and African-American voters who caught his message.

Denounce is more condemning than reject.

For instance, if a guy asks a girl out, she can reject him or she can denounce him. Which of these things is worse?

This bickering over semantics is ridiculous, and the only party benefiting from this is the Republican Party. The Democrats should find a way to quickly unite efforts instead of doing the dirty work for GOP.

Does anybody remember the Sister Soulja incident when Clinton first ran for President? This ultra-radical rapper endorsed him, he immediately stated that her support was neither wanted nor needed. He was a bit brutal to the old girl, but it was a pivotal moment in his campaign: he used this incident to signal to moderates of both parties that it was okay to vote for him. Sometimes it's necessary for a candidate to make it clear what he/she isn't, as well as what he is. The problem is that neither Barak nor Hillary have done this, they're so busy trying to be all things to all people that nobody is quite sure who they are. Barak had the golden opportunity for a Defining Moment handed him, and he blew it. Rookie mistake.

When two candidates are so close to each other on policy but differ greatly on style, and when one is beginning to lose the battle, the only alternative is to look at everything thru a microscope. And of course looking thru a microscope distorts the reality. So too this debate over Farrakhan. Clearly an anti-semite and he should be denounced for that. But on the other hand, no person is uni-dimensional and Farrakhan has meant a great deal to many African Americans and that can not be ignored. This debate over 'denounce' versus 'reject' is juvenile.

"If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate."

Apparently, this doesn't prohibit someone under 13 years of age from writing and contributing articles like this one. Did someone actually get paid to write this ad?

This is quite possibly one of the LOWEST and most WORTHLESS articles "related" to the campaign.

I think this new bent on painting Obama as not for but could be touched by some nefarious niche to be chilling in its hidden motivations and blatant playing on people's worst instincts.

One post on this article calls obama osama.......pretty low and disgusting. If that is what the race has come down to, I think Hillary winning the nomination at this point would make many of us walk away from the process in toto sickened at what went in for her to grab her brass ring.........When people indirectly affiliated with Hillary made negative ads did she reject or denounce them, of course not, its all a wink and a nudge.

Obama reminds me slick Willy. He is the most racist candidate I have ever seen. He hates white and latino people. He hides it very well. He will divide America and destroy our economy with his far left views. Wake up people and see the truth, he is a selfish, power seeking evil person.

either you accept or reject's that simple

Obama did not initially reject Farrakhan , he denounced the stand Farrakhan took, he did not reject his endorsement


I thought Obama handled himself well on this question. I agree with the other comments here that Hillary Clinton is grasping for straws. I am a conservative that has no party. The Republicans (especially McCain) and Democrats are for all intents and purposes equal. They both support big government and with that they support the "nanny state".

That said, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee I will most certainly vote for McCain. I can't stand her and the things she represents. I am so sick and tired of Clintonian politics that I will do anything in my power to make sure she does not become the next POTUS.

If Obama is the Democratic nominee I would consider voting for him. He is inspirational and he represents the next generation. He represents moving past divisions and trying to unifying us. Reaching across the party divide to help heal the mistakes of the last ten years.

This "Farrakhan issue" is the perfect example of why Clinton is a DIVIDER while Obama is a UNITER.

Hillary Clinton and her supporters think that she scored a major point by showing how swift she would be in "rejecting" the support of a controversial figure.

The truth is that making enemies, and reinforcing the position of your enemies, is the act of a DIVIDER, while a UNITER understands that one should condemn the crime, but not the criminal.

Louis Farrakhan is CORRECT when he suggests that Obama would be a great leader. Even the most repugnant individuals can be RIGHT some of the time, and Obama is correct in defending Farrakhan's right to support Obama's candidacy, even if Obama does not agree with Farrakhan's philosophies.

Just because a person has WRONG VIEWS, it does not mean that the person is wrong ALL THE TIME. If a "wrong person" happens to be right some of the time, they SHOULD be applauded for being right when they happen to be right.

The Farrakhan question was an ambush, and it was a loaded question, of the same ilk as "Are you still beating your wife?" By saying "no" you are admitting that you beat your wife in the past, even though it may not be true.

By "rejecting" Farrakhan's support, Obama would be implying that Farrakhan is WRONG for supporting him, when fact Farrakhan is RIGHT for supporting Obama.

This is exactly the same tactic Clinton used when Obama praised Reagan for uniting most of the country. Because Reagan is a "wrong person," suggests Clinton, how can he ever be "right"? Ergo, Obama must be "wrong" for suggesting that Reagan ever was "right".

It's the same old divisive politics of yesteryear. I'm SO sick of it. I used to think that if Hillary won the nomination, I'd vote for her in the general election. Now, I'm not so sure. It's a good thing I'll never have to make that decision.

Are the candidates running out of ideas or what? Why dwell on divisive issues? Let the moderators come up with useful questions like, "How do you intend to support Africa when you are president?"

Thank you so much for writing this story. Seems like you are the only one not, trying to protect the golden one... This is a VERY important issue people... Not only does this give potential indication of how Mr. Obama feels, it shows how he can not handle issues unless they are verbally rehearsed.

Farrakhan should run for vice president. He couldn't be any worse than Cheney.
Maybe we'll see a photo of him presenting some foreign leader with a bean pie.
That would be classic (monument material) :-D

Denounce, reject; nobody CARES. The media makes such a song and dance about a trifling. Is Israel really SO afraid for its future that it'll swing its vote for the president of the United States based on a technicality of language?

You're all obsessed with somehow proving that Barack Obama has ulterior motives in his run for the presidency.

Enough. Go report some news, and stop trying to create it.

How can such a smart man be such a light weight?

Farrakhan will seem like a moderate with Michelle Obama in the White House.
The democrats seem to think a candidate can be elected that is more uncomfortable wearing an American flag pin, than denouncing the support from an avowed anti-semite.

And so the Clinton War Machine fires up. This is a crazy point Billary is attempting to make. Obama should have worked in "it depends on what your definiton of "is" is."

If the vocal hate mongers actually ever listened to Rev. Farrakhan - completely though some of his speeches - they might be surprised. The Nation of Islam has some fundamental issues that need to be addressed. Their struggle for equality and justice is as important as the struggle of the Jews.

What is unfortunate is the divisiveness between two groups that actually have very much in common.

If Rev. Farrakhan endorses any candidate, and encourages the Black vote, good for him.

No one is 100% wrong all the time. Except maybe Hillary.

Judging by this exchange, I prefer Obama's vision of how America works. We have differences, and yet we figure out how to work together, as opposed to requiring that everyone share the same PC vision. I still have more confidence in Hillary's ability to start solving the problems the First Idiot has left us, but I get Obama's appeal a bit more now.

Unlike some whites aka liberal whites I am not scared to be called racist.And it will show how cowardly some whites are by voteing for a man who before running for president,had a history of attacking whites and supporting groups who are out to destroy whites.Obama is a man who speeches are not of his own,the same people that wrote MLK speeches are the same ones writeing Obamas.Remember hope and change are only words so stop being brain washed you zombies.This man is a sick racist and,news like cnn aka communist news network hides these facts.But if lib whites vote for him it also gose to show how sick ill brain washed whites have become by hate groups like the NAACP and their coherts.The statements his church has said about whites like whites being devils and whites deserved 9/11,only gose to show his personality.Oh he was a civil rights activist so what, rights for blacks never has he supported other minorities.Oh he has a white mom so what that dose'nt prove he int racist.My nephew has a white mom but hes racist against whites.Obamas a racist hes a member of a church that pledge allegiance black power and Africa.His church is the exact version of the KKK for blacks a racist black church.Don't give me that change shit and hope shit,they are words only.Obama speeches are brain washing he is running a secret racist black agenda,and giveing speeches like hitler.Yes he can communicate and give good speeches but tell him to write his own and stop haveing the NAACP write them for him.

Don Frederick,

Give it break. Clinton got pasted for splitting hairs on that. Remember how she got laughed at on his final answer. I think you got several similar reviews in this blog. Maybe you should think before you write.

Overall, did someone say something about the smell of desperation in HRC last night? It's gonna get ugly from here.

Obama is a natural born leader. How handled her vitriol is why he'll do better as president than hrc who wants to mire Washington with her "fighting" nature.

Until almost the end of Clintons response on this Farrakhan non issue, I thought she was agreeing and commiserating with Obama. That she too had been backed in the past by groups she wanted nothing to do with. That she too viewed abhorred anti-Semitism. Instead she parses the definition of words in an attempt to somehow take the high road and score some points. Does it remind anyone about Bill’s previous expeditions with the English language in trying to redefine words? The debate moderator was so surprised by the answer that he had to confirm that indeed Clinton was trying to make political capital on this. I found it hardly to be an opening for Clinton, but rather to be the sounds of her campaign closing.

Your review is crap, and I DENOUNCE it. Ooooops, sorry, I reject it....

Obama is going to be the president!....

If you don't like it, well, there is another vote in 4 years after he takes the white house and if he wins again in another 4 years in office then he will be out of office in 8 years.

So, to those who hate Obama, if you don't like him to be president he will be out of office in 4 years...worst luck 8 years LOL...


For those who don’t know the “Obama” DANGER…

Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr., of the Trinity United Community Church of Chicago, affiliated to the Nation of Islam, is considered by Barak Hussein Obama, his spiritual mentor. Nation of Islam is the dangerous organization commanded by Louis Farrakhan, probably the most dangerous US citizen.

Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr., whom Obama considers so highly, not only is a follower and a close friend of Farrakhan, but he also awarded him in 2007 with “Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Lifetime Trumpeteer Award”.

Farrakhan is not only an enemy of the Jews but also an extreme racist against white people, remarks that he proudly demonstrates at all of his sermons, where he always appears surrounded by his armed bodyguards.

I mentioned that because many people don’t even know what may come if Mr. Obama gets to the White House.

Look, I watched the debate last night, I am Jewish and my parents were holocaust survivors. i say were because they have both passed away.

I thought Obama did fine in his statement that he denounced Farrakhan. I do not believe he supports Farrakhan's policies or thoughtless rantings.

I also believe denounce is a much stronger term than reject. Hillary's insistence on Obama using the term reject again shows why I believe she would not make a good President. She seems to have a personality trait where things must be her way, and endless parsing of terms seem to be her norm as well as her husband's legacy.

Do we need more of this? No, I say. I reject that notion as well as denounce it.

This country needs someone with a vision, someone to inspire and energize people to stand up, get involved and do the right thing again in government. That is why, if nominated this Republican will vote for Barack Obama in '08.

I am Sam Katz, and I approve this message.

Please read Post by Marc Polonsky.Posted at 9:42 pm,since any addition by me would reflect or echo his position.Having said that,here are a few points to ponder. Why is it when the Clintons are in political trouble,they always run to the black churches,and not a Jewish Synagogue?
Why did Bill Clinton inject the race card/play the race card?
Why the Clintons never had any "BLACKS" in his cabinet?Yet,no one ask the question.
Assuming the Democratic Party nominate Hillary Clinton, the Party will lose both the House and the Senate,and she will not become president.Reason,the Clintons has disrespected and alienate the party core and loyal supporters."The democrats has taken the black vote for granted" so said, Pres.Bush.Thus,he is right in saying so,based upon his own record among blacks.What more proof the democrats need, that Obama should be the nominee.Here is your answer,the only time the democrats has lost the House and Senate,is when the Clintons was in office.Ponder that.
Thanks Marc Polonsky,for your blog I couldn't have said it better.

How can the American public be so blind?

Obama is telling everyone what they want to hear, that is why he circles around the fire on his answers.

I married a lawyer who's demeanor was similar to Obama. Told me what I wanted to hear before marriage and immediately after the marriage became the opposite of what he projected himself to be.

Obama is pulling the wool over too many eyes. He scares me!

Clinton is the victim of sexism by the media and by many Americans - white angry men and white jealous women.

I'm voting Clinton or McCain but NEVER Obama.

I don't see the problem with his answer. He explains quite clearly that he did not seek this endorsement nor is he dealing with the Nation of Islam. Do we need some sort of outrageous pro-wrestling smackdown reaction from Senator Obama to prove that it's "Denunciation Time Baby"!? Obama's whole campaign is about being unflappable. Don't flap now, Senator. We can hear you perfectly fine - no need to shout.


Mr. Frederick:

You could have saved yourself time if you had been less circular arriving at your point. Whatever the point is that you've tried to make.

Now -- Can you please find out when Russert will ask of Senator Clinton when she will denounce, reject and renounce in the strongest terms the actions of her biggest supporter on the campaign trail for sullying a perfectly fine blue dress?

Get a grip folks -- The author of this piece, Don Frederick "is a third-generation Washingtonian" and this is what he considers of highest importance on the banks of the Delaware.

And to the rest of us working stiffs? Isn't time for us folks to get to work, if some are still lucky enough to have employment. The March re-mortgage payment is due on the 12th.


One entry found.


Main Entry: de·nounce
Pronunciation: \di-ˈnau̇n(t)s, dē-\
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): de·nounced; de·nounc·ing
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French denuncier to proclaim, from Latin denuntiare, from de- + nuntiare to report — more at announce
Date: 13th century
1: to pronounce especially publicly to be blameworthy or evil
2archaic a: proclaim b: to announce threateningly
3: to inform against : accuse
4obsolete : portend
5: to announce formally the termination of (as a treaty)

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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