Ferraro: Obama should be thanking me for comments
David Edwards and Nick Juliano
Published: Wednesday March 12, 2008

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Geraldine Ferraro says her comments on Barack Obama's race being the primary reason for his success in the presidential campaign are being "spun" as racist, and she says he should be thanking her for the comments.

Rather than retreat from her seemingly foot-in-mouth comments, the former New York City lawmaker has decided to go on offense. Ferraro has claimed her words were taken out of context and has decried being painted as racist by some.

"The spin on the words has been that somehow I was addressing the his qualifications. I was not," Ferraro said Wednesday on ABC's Good Morning America. "I was celebrating the fact that the black community in this country came out with a pride in a historic candidacy, and has shown itself at the polls. You'd think he'd say, 'Yeah thank you for doing that. ... we want to say thank you to the community.' Instead I'm charged with being a racist."

The latest dust-up over whether Clinton supporters are inappropriately inserting race into the campaign began with Ferraro's comments to a small California newspaper last Friday. In an exchange with a "decidedly bitter edge" Ferraro said, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position." The same day she repeated the sentiment to conservative talk radio host John Gibson but denied she was playing "the race card."

Clinton said she disagreed with Ferraro's comments, but there's been no effort from the campaign to remove Ferraro from its finance committee. Ferraro has raised at least $100,000 for Clinton.

Standing by her comments -- "I believe that," she said -- Ferraro tried to put into context how her observation ended up in the newspaper.

"I was asked after the speech, 'What is the reason that you see that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are at this level together?'" she said. "Could I have said because his experience is what puts him there? No. Could I say because the stands on issues have distinction? No."

Ferraro was the first woman on a major party White House ticket when she was picked as Walter Mondale's running mate in the 1984 campaign. On ABC Wednesday, she acknowledged that if not for her gender, she would not have been picked as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, even though she said she was qualified for the job.

During the 1984 campaign, Ferraro made similar comments about Jesse Jackson, who was running for president that year.

Neither Obama nor his campaign specifically accused Ferraro of "racism," but his campaign strategist David Axelrod said Tuesday that the comments were "offensive" and signaled an "anything goes campaign." He also noted previous instances of Clinton surrogates' questionable comments and Clinton's hedged answer when asked about Obama's religion.

Obama made the rounds of network morning shows Wednesday, a day after he won the Mississippi primary by a wide margin. He accused Clinton's campaign of engaging in divisive politics and noted that his own advisers and surrogates have left the campaign after making inappropriate remarks. He told ABC he respected Ferraro but he disputed the implication of her comments.

"I think if anybody was looking for the quickest path to the presidency, they would not say, 'I want to be an African-American man named Barack Obama,'" he said. "I don't think that's in the handbook for running for president."

This video is from ABC's Good Morning America, broadcast March 12, 2008.