US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton faced a firestorm yesterday sparked by her raising the 1968 assassination of late senator Robert Kennedy to justify her decision to prolong her White House campaign.
Clinton told a newspaper board in South Dakota she could not understand calls for her to quit, arguing that history showed that some past nominating contests had gone on into June.
“My husband [former US president Bill Clinton] did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary, somewhere in the middle of June, right?” Clinton said on Friday in an interview with the Argus Leader newspaper editorial board.
“We all remember, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California, I don’t understand it,” Clinton said.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton condemned her comment as “unfortunate” and said it “has no place in this campaign.”
Clinton appeared to reference the Kennedy killing at the end of the 1968 Democratic presidential race to show that previous Democratic nominating contests have stretched well into June.
But referring to political assassinations is fraught with sensitivity, especially for supporters of Obama, who accepted Secret Service protection last year, long before the time it is offered to most presidential candidates, because of unspecified threats.
Clinton quickly launched a damage control effort, saying that the Kennedys had been in her thoughts, after Senator Edward Kennedy was diagnosed with brain cancer this week.
“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,” Clinton said. “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.”
The Argus Leader’s executive editor, Randell Beck, issued a statement saying: “[Clinton’s] reference to Mr. Kennedy’s assassination appeared to focus on the timeline of his primary candidacy and not the assassination itself.”