Geraldine Ferraro stepped down Wednesday from an honorary post in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign amid a controversy regarding her comments that Barack Obama wouldn’t be succeeding in the race for the White House if he weren’t black.
Ferraro notified Clinton by letter that she would no longer serve on Clinton’s finance committee as “Honorary New York Leadership Council Chair.” She wrote that the Obama campaign “is attacking me to hurt you.”
Earlier Wednesday, Obama dismissed Ferraro’s remarks as “ridiculous,” and his campaign aides have demanded Clinton denounce her assertions.
“I think they were wrong-headed,” he said at a Chicago news conference. “The notion that it is a great advantage to me to be an African American named Barack Obama and pursue the presidency, I think, is not a view that has been commonly shared by the general public.”
In a letter to Clinton, first reported by CNN, Ferraro says: “Dear Hillary, I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what’s at stake in this campaign. The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won’t let that happen. Thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do to make this a better world for my children and grandchildren. You have my deep admiration and respect, Gerry.”
Campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said Ferraro left the post on her own initiative.
The back-and-forth between two Democratic trailblazers — Obama, seeking to be the nation’s first black president, and Ferraro, who in 1984 was the first woman on a major party presidential ticket — continued for a second day as they appeared on network and cable morning news programs.
The controversy began when the national media picked up on comments Ferraro made in an interview last week with the Daily Breeze newspaper in Torrance, Calif.: “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. And the country is caught up in the concept.”
Ferraro said she stands by her assertion that Obama’s success in the Democratic campaign is due “in part” to his race.
Obama, however, said that if someone in his campaign had suggested that Hillary Clinton “is where she is only because she is a woman” she would be offended.
Clinton has said she disagrees with Ferraro’s remarks. In an interview with The Associated Press, she said, “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.”
Ferraro is the latest in a series of candidate surrogates whose comments have roiled both presidential campaigns. Last week, Obama adviser Samantha Power resigned after calling Clinton “a monster.”
Ferraro, who was Walter Mondale’s vice presidential running mate, said Wednesday that her remarks were not racist and had been taken out of context.
“I was talking about historic candidacies and what I started off by saying (was that) if you go back to 1984 and look at my historic candidacy, which I had just talked about all these things, in 1984 if my name was Gerard Ferraro instead of Geraldine Ferraro, I would have never been chosen as a vice presidential candidate,” Ferraro said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “It had nothing to do with my qualification.”
Ferraro said she has a 40-year history of opposing discrimination of all kinds, including race, and that she was outraged at criticism of her remarks by David Axelrod, Obama’s chief media strategist, because he knows her and her record.
“David Axelrod, his campaign manager, has chose to spin this as a racist comment because every time anybody makes a comment about race who is white — he did it with Bill Clinton, he was successful; he did it with (Pennsylvania governor and Clinton supporter) Ed Rendell, he was less successful; and he is certainly not going to be successful with me,” Ferraro told CBS’ “The Early Show.” “He should have called me up … He knows I’m not racist.”
Associated Press writer Joan Lowy contributed to this report./i