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Obama Says Clinton's RFK Comment Was Merely 'Careless'

Sen. Barack Obama waves during a campaign stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on May 24, 2008. (Associated Press)

By Alec MacGillis
San Juan, P.R. -- Barack Obama spoke publicly today for the first time about Hillary Clinton's invocation of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, telling a Puerto Rico radio station that he took Clinton's word that she meant no harm.

"I have learned that when you are campaigning for as many months as Senator Clinton and I have been campaigning, sometimes you get careless in terms of the statements that you make, and I think that is what happened here," he said in an interview with Radio ISLA. "Senator Clinton says that she did not intend any offense by it, and I will take her at her word on that."

Clinton caused a stir yesterday when she told the Argus Leader in South Dakota that it is wrong for others to urge her to quit the Democratic race, given that previous primaries have lasted into the summer. Her examples: her husband's campaign in 1992, and the race in 1968, when, she said, "We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California."

The comments exploded online, as some detected in them an implication by Clinton that it makes sense for her to stay in the race, despite her delegate deficit, because there is no way to know what could happen before the convention. Her campaign vigorously rejected that interpretation, saying Clinton was referring only to past examples of the primary season running into June and beyond.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Clinton sought to clarify the comment. "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 [Edward] 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."

Since then, reports have surfaced of several previous instances in the past three months when Clinton referred to Robert Kennedy's assassination in discussing her decision to stay in the race for the duration.

By Washington Post Editor  |  May 24, 2008; 9:32 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama  
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