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Hillary Clinton apologizes to African Americans for Bill's comments

March 13, 2008 |  7:10 am

File this under "Better late than never." The AP reports that Hillary Clinton apologized Wednesday night for Bill Clinton's comments during the South Carolina Democratic primary showdown with Barack Obama.

At a forum sponsored by an association of African American community newspapers, Clinton was asked about her husband's comments after Obama walked away with the South Carolina win in January. At the time, Bill Clinton pointed out that Rev. Jesse Jackson had won South Carolina in 1984 and 1988 -- campaigns that went nowhere. The comments were perceived as dismissing Obama's win, and many African Americans took umbrage.

"I want to put that in context," Hillary Clinton said Wednesday night. "You know I am sorry if anyone was offended. It was certainly not meant in any way to be offensive." She went on to say that "we can be proud of both Jesse Jackson and Senator Obama." And: "Anyone who has followed my husband's public life or my public life know very well where we have stood and what we have stood for and who we have stood with."

Coming just hours after Geraldine Ferraro quit as a Clinton fundraiser over her own race-tinged remarks, you have to wonder how much of Clinton's apology was sincere and how much was an attempt to smooth over a rift with a key part of the Democratic base.

And as our colleague Peter Wallsten points out in today's Times, race has become a persistent issue in the Democratic campaign despite Clinton and Obama's stated desires that the nomination fight be over issues. "This is a virtual race war, politically," the Rev. Eugene Rivers of Boston's Azusa Christian Community church told Wallsten. And depending on how the nomination fight ends, many African American voters could stay home in the fall.

--Scott Martelle

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