Clinton: Wright "would not have been my pastor"

Hillary Clinton speaks out on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and the Obama campaign isn't happy.


Alex Koppelman
March 26, 2008 2:54AM (UTC)

Hillary Clinton had refrained recently from mentioning the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's controversial former pastor. But she changed that in an interview with reporters and editors from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Tuesday, when she said, "He would not have been my pastor. You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend."

Obama's camp was not happy. In a statement, spokesman Bill Burton said:

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After originally refusing to play politics with this issue, it's disappointing to see Hillary Clinton's campaign sink to this low in a transparent effort to distract attention away from the story she made up about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia. The truth is, Barack Obama has already spoken out against his pastor's offensive comments and addressed the issue of race in America with a deeply personal and uncommonly honest speech. The American people deserve better than tired political games that do nothing to solve the larger challenges facing this country.

Clinton also discussed the Bosnia controversy during the interview. She gave sleep deprivation as the reason she "misspoke" in giving her account of a 1996 trip to the country. In an earlier interview with a Pittsburgh radio station, she said:

I did misspeak the other day. This has been a very long campaign. Occasionally, I am a human being like everybody else. The military took great care of us. They were worried about taking a First Lady to a war zone and took some extra precautions and worried about all sorts of things. I have written about it in my book and talked about it on many other occasions and last week, you know, for the first time in 12 or so years I misspoke.

The Obama camp wasn't letting her slide on that, either. Burton e-mailed reporters to say that Clinton had actually given a similar account on multiple occasions. The full e-mail from Burton:

MARCH 17: Clinton: “There Was No Greeting Ceremony, And We Basically Were Told To Run To Our Cars. Now, That Is What Happened." "Everyone else was told to sit on their bulletproof vests," Clinton said. "And we came in, in an evasive maneuver... There was no greeting ceremony, and we basically were told to run to our cars. Now, that is what happened." [CNN, 3/17/08]

MARCH 17: Clinton, Speaking About Her Trip To Bosnia, Said "I Remember Landing Under Sniper Fire. There Was Supposed To Be Some Kind Of A Greeting Ceremony At The Airport, But Instead We Just Ran With Our Heads Down To Get Into Vehicles To Get To Our Base." Clinton: "Good morning. I want to thank Secretary West for his years of service, not only as Secretary of the Army, but also to the Veteran’s Administration, to our men and women in uniform, to our country. I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia, and as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn't go, so send the First Lady. That's where we went. I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base. But it was a moment of great pride for me to visit our troops, not only in our main base as Tuzla, but also at two outposts where they were serving in so many capacities to deactivate and remove landmines, to hunt and seek out those who had not complied with the Dayton Accords and put down their arms, and to build relationships with the people that might lead to a peace for them and their children." [Clinton speech (remarks as delivered), 3/17/08]

FEBRUARY 29: Clinton Said That The Welcoming Ceremony In Bosnia "Had To Be Moved Inside Because Of Sniper Fire." "At the rally, she belittled the idea that Mr. Obama's 2002 speech 'at an antiwar rally' prepared him to serve as commander in chief. She said he was 'missing in action' on the recent Senate vote on Iran and as chairman of a subcommittee responsible for NATO policy in Afghanistan. Contrasting that with her own experience, she evoked foreign battlefields, recalling a trip to Bosnia as first lady, when the welcoming ceremony 'had to be moved inside because of sniper fire.' She said she had traveled to more than 80 countries and was 'on the front lines' as the United States made peace in Bosnia and Northern Ireland and helped save refugees from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo." [NYT, 3/1/08] VIDEO

DECEMBER 29: Clinton [said] That When She Went To Bosnia, "We Landed In One Of Those Corkscrew Landings And Ran Out Because They Said There Might Be Sniper Fire." Clinton, in Dubuque, Iowa on December 29, 2007, said "I was so honored to be able to travel around the world representing our country. You know, going to places that often times were, you know, not necessarily a place that a president could go. We used to say in the White House that if a place was too dangerous, too small or too poor, send the first lady. So, I had the time of my life. I was the first, you know, high-profile American to go into Bosnia after the peace accords were signed because we wanted to show that the United States was 100 percent behind the agreement. We wanted to make it clear to the Bosnians of all backgrounds. Plus we wanted to thank our American military and our allies for a great job. So, we landed in one of those corkscrew landings and ran out because they said there might be sniper fire. I don't remember anybody offering me tea on the tarmac. We got there and went to the base where our soldiers were and I went out to a lot of the forward operating bases to thank our young men and women in uniform and to thank the Europeans, including the Russians who were part of that effort." [CNN, 1/1/08]


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Hillary Rodham Clinton War Room




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