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Clinton References RFK Assassination

UPDATE, 6:50 pm: The Sioux Falls Argus Leader executive editor Randell Beck has just released a statement in regards the controversy caused by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (N.Y.) comments about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

Here's Beck's statement:

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


Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), already a longshot for her party's presidential nod, may have unwittingly lengthened the odds of her nomination by referencing the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in seeking to answer a question about why so many people are calling for her to leave the race.

"My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right?," Clinton said in explaining why she remained in the race to the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader editorial board. "We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it."

What Clinton meant seems clear. Previous nomination fights have gone well into June and, therefore, there is no reason for this one to be cut short before every state has its say. (South Dakota is one of the last two states to vote, on June 3.)

Clinton later met with reporters to try to clarify her remarks, saying she only meant to make the point that that it's "an historic fact" that other primary campaigns have gone into June, but she voiced regret if her comments were misunderstood. She said "the Kennedys have been much on my mind in the last days" because of the diagnosis that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has a brain tumor. Clinton said "I regret if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive."

Unfortunately for Clinton, using the RFK assassination to prove her point was -- at best -- a poorly chosen example. Many in the black community have expressed fear about the possibility of assassination as it relates to Sen. Barack Obama -- the first African-American candidate likely to be one of the major parties' nominee for president and raising the matter (in any manner) is widely regarded as poor form.

It's not the first time the shadow of assasination has been raised in the campaign.

In January during an appearance in Dover, New Hampshire, Clinton was introduced by a woman named Francine Torge who said the following, according to the New York Times' "Caucus" blog: "Some people compare one of the other candidates to John F. Kennedy. But he was assassinated. And Lyndon Baines Johnson was the one who actually" passed landmark civil rights legislation. The Clinton campaign called those comments "totally inappropriate."

More recently, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) -- after his speech to the National Rifle Association was interrupted by a noise from off stage -- joked: "That was Barack Obama. He just tripped off a chair. He's getting ready to speak and somebody aimed a gun at him and he -- he dove for the floor." Huckabee quickly apologized for the remark.

By Chris Cillizza  |  May 23, 2008; 5:24 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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Next: Primary Predictions Redux: Kentucky, Oregon

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