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Ferraro sticks to Obama remarks

Campaigns trade barbs over her suggestion that race has given an edge to Illinois senator.

March 12, 2008|Robin Abcarian | Times Staff Writer

The regular sniping between the campaigns of Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton got a little more intense Tuesday after Geraldine Ferraro, a onetime Democratic vice presidential nominee and current Clinton fundraiser, refused to back down from comments implying that Obama has done so well in the race because he is black.

In a telephone interview last week with the Daily Breeze of Torrance in advance of a local appearance Sunday, Ferraro said: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman [of any color] he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is."

In a brief Associated Press interview Tuesday while in Harrisburg, Pa., Clinton said she did not agree with Ferraro. She added, "It's regrettable that any of our supporters -- on both sides, because we both have this experience -- say things that kind of veer off into the personal."

Obama, in an interview with the Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., said, "I don't think Geraldine Ferraro's comments have any place in our politics or in the Democratic Party. They are divisive. I think anybody who understands the history of this country knows they are patently absurd. And I would expect that the same way those comments don't have a place in my campaign they shouldn't have a place in Sen. Clinton's either."

But Ferraro, who ran on Walter F. Mondale's losing ticket in 1984, dug in her heels.

"I'm sorry that people thought it was racist," Ferraro told Fox News on Tuesday. She said she was not acting as a Clinton representative but was promoting a speech she had been paid to make, and resented the implication that she vets what she says with anyone.

Later, in a statement that was e-mailed to reporters, Clinton's campaign manager, Maggie Williams, echoed Clinton. Her statement began with an Obama quote made in January while he was speaking to NBC's Tim Russert: "I think that, as Hillary said, our supporters, our staff, get overzealous."

"We agreed then," wrote Williams. "We agree today. Supporters from both campaigns will get overzealous."

Last week, one of Obama's unpaid foreign policy advisors, Harvard professor Samantha Power, resigned from his campaign after calling Clinton a "monster" in an interview with a Scottish newspaper. She apologized and blamed fatigue.

Alluding to Power in a conference call Tuesday with reporters, Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, said: "Ferraro should be denounced and censured by the campaign. Samantha resigned because it was not consistent with the kind of campaign we want to run. We want a candidate and president who will live by their words."

Ferraro, for her part, told Fox News that "if it makes David [Axelrod] happy, I would get off the [Clinton] finance committee."

But, she added, referring to Axelrod, "He shouldn't really antagonize people like me." If Obama is nominated, Axelrod "is going to come to me and ask me to raise money for Barack Obama, and I will do it for him, too, if he stops doing this kind of horrendous attack."

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robin.abcarian@latimes.com

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