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Clinton Invokes RFK Assassination

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Updated 7:06 p.m.
By Anne E. Kornblut
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton invoked the memory of slain Democratic candidate Robert F. Kennedy as she explained her persistence in the Democratic race on Friday, saying that although the media and the Barack Obama campaign have been trying to usher her from the race, "historically, that makes no sense."

"We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California," Clinton said in a meeting with the editorial board of the Argus Leader, a newspaper in South Dakota.

Her advisers later said she was using the historical reference to note that campaigns have stretched until the summer before, not to suggest that Obama might be assassinated. In the previous sentence, she had also noted that her husband's campaign in 1992 lasted until June as well.

But in a campaign in which voters have voiced concerns about the safety of the first African American front-runner in history, it was a surprising choice of words by Clinton, whose best hope for seizing the nomination now would be a major setback for Obama. Clinton has already faced harsh criticism for allegedly exacerbating racial divisions in the nominating process.

"Senator Clinton's statement before the Argus Leader editorial board was unfortunate and has no place in this campaign," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

Clinton clarified her remarks in a statement from Brandon, S.D.

"Earlier today I was discussing the Democratic primary history and in the course of that discussion mentioned the campaigns that both my husband and Senator Kennedy waged in California in June 1992 and 1968 and I was referencing those to make the point that we have had nomination primary contests that go into June. That's a historic fact." she said. "The Kennedys have been much on my mind the last days because of Senator Kennedy and I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation, and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that, whatsoever."

She continued:"My view is that we have to look to the past and to our leaders who have inspired us and give us a lot to live up to, and I'm honored to hold Senator Kennedy's seat in the United States Senate from the state of New York and have the highest regard for the entire Kennedy family."

And, Friday evening, Argus Leader executive editor Randell Beck issued a statement clarifying the context of Clinton's remarks to his editorial staff.

"The context of the question and answer with Sen. Clinton was whether her continued candidacy jeopardized party unity this close to the Democratic convention," he said. "Her reference to Mr. Kennedy's assassination appeared to focus on the timeline of his primary candidacy and not the assassination itself."

By Post Editor  |  May 23, 2008; 4:30 PM ET
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