NPR logo Ferraro Remarks Shift Attention to Race

Election 2008

Ferraro Remarks Shift Attention to Race

Geraldine Ferraro

Former Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro Jamie Rose/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Jamie Rose/Getty Images

Here's Geraldine Ferraro talking to the Daily Breeze of Torrance, Calif., about Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama:

"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."

And here's Ferraro talking to the New York Times about those remarks:

"Every time that campaign is upset about something, they call it racist," she said. "I will not be discriminated against because I'm white. If they think they're going to shut up Geraldine Ferraro with that kind of stuff, they don't know me."

Your turn to talk's in the comments, right below. You know what to do.

Bonus: Politico has a Ferraro flashback.



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I'd like to believe that in America, we are past this type of stereotypical rhetoric from pundits and supporters.
It seems that Ferraro???s answer to a viable black candidate(Jackson & Obama) is routine. She seems to have political reservations based on personal racial perceptions whether she will admit it or not. The shame of it all is that she is not alone, she is one of many. She is representative of white female voters. We will not know until the election and only then, if Obama gets the nomination,if the perception is widespread among white female voters. is widespread.

Sent by Daryl Luckey | 10:11 AM | 3-12-2008

If Ferraro is going to make such statements, she needs to reflect on this: If Hillary was a woman of any other ethnicity, race, or color, SHE would NOT be in her position. So what is Ferraro really trying to say? That we the people are stupid and are "caught up in the concept" of having a black male president? That we are distracted by his "blackness" and aren't able to pay attention to his character, and stance on issues? I think she's insulting not only Obama the individual, but also the Obama supporters. I don't think what she said is racist, but it is insulting.

Sent by Alexis | 10:41 AM | 3-12-2008

Wow! Humm, I wonder if the Obama campaign is putting pressure on Hilary Clinton to fire Geraldine?

This comment in particular is very unsavory: "I will not be discriminated against because I am white" - Is she completely disconnected from reality? It might do her some good to suffer a bit of REAL discrimination over something as trivial as skin color. Where is the humility? And more importantly, where is the empathy?

Sent by Anna | 11:15 AM | 3-12-2008

Ferraro's comments are ill-considered, and her implication that Senator Obama is unqualified and has only attained his position because of preferential treatment due to his race smacks of the arguments conservative Rebublicans level against programs such as Affirmative Action.

It's sad that a formerly influential figure in the Democratic Party would play the reverse discrimination card in accusing her critics of being "racist" against her because she's white. It's such a childish retort, and misses the crucial difference between racism (systemic power inequities favoring one race over another) and racial prejudice (coming to judgment based on race rather than objective analysis).

Both candidates have attained their current positions through hard work and in *spite* of being outside of the traditional power base, not because of it. Should we now debate whether Senator Clinton has attained her position solely because her husband's term is looked back on with fondness, or in spite of his more embarrassing activities?

Sent by Tom | 12:35 PM | 3-12-2008

A comment I read on another blog pretty much sums it up for me. It's true that if Obama were a white man, he would not be in this position. Because he'd already be the nominee.

Sent by Stewart | 1:14 PM | 3-12-2008

Ms Ferraro I got news for you, Obama is half White.
Ferraro is a racist that is a well known fact in NY but the statement she made about Obama was deliberate. I believe it was a calculated Karl Rovian tactic by the Clinton's camp to divert media attention and to create a race division.
The divide and conquer strategy.
The race issue gets Clinton/Ferraro air time to promote Clinton and spread more lies like they did in Ohio.
Her corporate sponsors are happy to give her as much air time as she needs by covering stories like this ???free ads for Hillary???.
It was obvious that Sen. Clinton the poor me (victimized by the media) helped her get more support from woman. True feminist should see right through this issue but they missed it.
This is not about race or gender. This election should be who would be the best candidate to serve this country.

Sent by RAHEL | 1:21 PM | 3-12-2008

It's more than a little bit entertaining for me to see anti-lifers like Ms. Ferraro engaging in the kind of bigoted and racist behavior that she and other anti-lifers accuse us pro-lifers of engaging in. Now, I'm not claiming moral perfection for anyone who's pro-life --including myself-- but it's funny how the more-tolerant-than-thou like Ms. Ferraro are behaving so badly.

Sent by Matthew Scallon | 2:42 PM | 3-12-2008

In examining HilLIARy Klinton???s claim of ???35 years of experience (past and present)???and being ready day one??? you would be left to conclude that her JUDGMENT and DECISIONS have rewarded Americans with:


Sent by Jerry | 2:57 PM | 3-12-2008

By not firing Ferraro and letting her speak on TV, Hilary Clinton tacitly supports the racist remark from her campaign manager. She is an excellent student of Karl Rove as she hypocritically accused Obama of doing so. Before, she took recourse of Bush's fear tactics, now she has tacitly use bigotery. Is that what we want from a Democrat presidential nominee?

Sent by Tony | 3:38 PM | 3-12-2008

After all of the Clinton camp's whining last week about Samantha Power's "monster" comment, which she resigned over - it stuns me that Hillary Clinton cannot see that Ferraro's comments are a thousand times worse given the history of our nation.

Sent by Amy | 3:55 PM | 3-12-2008

If Hillary had any other last name but Clinton, she would not even be in this race. Obama is a self-made man. Hillary has ridden the coat tails of her former president husband. It's that simple

Sent by Skipp Orr | 4:18 PM | 3-12-2008

I was a 5 day a week, 8 hour a day volunteer for the Mondale/Ferraro campaign back in '84, and I am stunned and greatly disappointed that Ferraro has come out with this now and in this way. Let's for argument's sake accept that what she said was true (as she believes and I most emphatically do not), there is only one reason to talk about it at this time and in this way: to gain advantage for her candidate by calling into question the legitimacy of the opponent. It is indeed cynical. Much was made of the fact that Reagan was an actor (!) when I was working on the campaign, and that if he hadn't been he wouldn't have gotten where he was. And? Gloria Steinem made the equally ill-considered remarks that John McCain was where he was because he was a POW and that such an experience was overrated. There is no reason for either of these women to make these comments except to diminish their candidate's opponents: the comments offer no insight (except into the their own characters perhaps) and do not add to the discourse of what will serve our country. (To judge the intent and purely partisan nature of the remarks one need only ask: would they make parallel comments about their own candidate?)

We are our life experiences, and we take what we have and either let them serve us or defeat us. Barack Obama's unusual life experiences (and indeed John McCain's and even Hillary Clinton's), including his racial background, have served to make him who he is, and he is not where he is out of "luck". To interpret the experiences of any of these candidates in such simplistic terms diminishes the man or woman who utters the remarks and any of us who simply nod in agreement without really understanding what they mean and what they are.

Sent by Sally | 4:33 PM | 3-12-2008

Ms. Ferraro is seeing the grain of sand in her opponent's eye and missing the log in her own. Would Hillary be running for president if she was not Mrs. Bill Clinton? No. Would a junior member of the House of Representatives been selected as a Vice-Presidential candidate in 1984 if she had not been female? No.

Sent by John Futrell | 5:40 PM | 3-12-2008

I applaud Ferraro for finaly facing Obama on this issue. Whenever someone brings this topic up or chides him about his many faults his camp labels them racist or negative to the Democratic party while trying to hypnotize voters with his unsubstaniated promises and rushes off to slander Hillary on things that are untrue. His acts are childish and in a sick fashion racist for using his ethnicity to manipulate or downplay others. The Democratic party should be ashamed and angry for not only allowing him to do this, but ignoring the media for their part in this sadistic act. Perhaps now this campaign will be run as it ought to and Obama's ego sent down a few overdue pegs. Hopefully the Democratic party will have sense enough to elect the only qualified individual, and this is including both sides of the political volley, Mrs. Hillary.

Sent by Matthew Ziolkovski aka The Beige Penguin | 5:56 PM | 3-12-2008

Right on! It is a reality that Obama has been given a free ride during this primary season, but wait until the general election. I am a Clinton supporter but I believe that Obama will and should be the nominee. Then the republican party will show us all that racism is still alive in this country. Just hide and watch !!!

Sent by Bill L. | 7:35 PM | 3-12-2008

I think that Ferraro's comments were taken out of context. Although her remarks are a reflection of muddled thinking, I don't think that an intelligent and fair reading of the comments reasonably could lead to the conclusion that she was saying that he would not be running for president, successfully, if he were not a black man. Instead, the most reasonable reading is that she was saying that he would not be able to employ his particular campaign strategy if he were not a black man. Reading the entire quote, it is clear that the "position" she was referring to, that Obama would not be able to enjoy if he were a white man or a woman of any color, is that of the great reconciler. A white man is in the position of privilege and authority, so he has no ability to be in that position - he is on one side of the equation and cannot bridge the divide. I'm not certain why Ferraro believes that a white woman would be unable to be in the position, but a woman of color, being a member of the disadvantaged classes in both race and gender categories, also cannot reconcile (under this rather bizarre theory), because she is on the opposite end of the divide from the white man. Only a black man would be able to bring opposite sides together. I don't buy the entire theory, of course - and they are troubling remarks - but the Obama campaign is just misrepresenting the nature of the remarks in order to sensationalize and polarize.

Sent by Lisa | 11:20 PM | 3-12-2008

As I listened to public radio commentary on Geraldine Ferraro resignation from Sen. Clinton's campaign because of comments concerning Sen. Obama being black, I can't but think that the situation is either pathetic or comical. Barack Obama is as black as Tiger Woods. Both are half-black. What about the other half? Don't they count. Whites should be up in arms because the press never mention that he is white. So should Tiger be upset, the press never mentions that he is half Asian. Wake up America and let get it right. The other half should count for something.

Sent by Whitlow Au | 11:51 PM | 3-12-2008

what would politics do without the vocabulary of "sensationalize and polarize" just wouldn't be fun for half of our country...the republicans just went thru their own "polar battle" and i hope we can come to our senses quickly...and we must learn to speak responsibly when in powerful positions.

Sent by jayn | 6:56 AM | 3-13-2008

She wsa right.

Sent by Lisa | 11:25 AM | 3-13-2008

Great comment on this blog..."Obama is half WHITE"! Love it.
Ferraro has totally embarrassed herself by the ignorance of her comment. She wasn't stating the obvious. She was playing politics for HRC. 'nothing else to use, now let's try to divide and conquer. Win at all costs is the HRC rule of thumb. Obama downed a great asset to his campaign and HRC tried to take full advantage of it. He in turn takes this gracefully and the HRC bunch say it's Obama's fault. I started out a staunch HRC supporter and slowly have erroded my respect for her because of her tactics and sly moves. Maybe the great unread does not see this and just gets the sound bites that she is hoping for..dupe the public, so to speak.
Obama has my vote.
(I am white, female, 56, masters degree) and definitely not voting for Hillary.

Sent by Kathleen Eddy Yih | 2:13 PM | 3-13-2008

What a shame for a woman of Ferraro's calibre to say such a stupid and demeaning remark! The fact is Barack has earned his position. The American voters from all backgrounds have put him in this position simply because he has worked for it to win their trust. Which people 'have been caught up in this concept?' what concept?! She is one of the few Americans who are still caught up in the 'concept of race!' Go Barack go!

Sent by Lizzie | 2:27 PM | 3-13-2008

For those who say oh that is not a racist comment, let???s play the other side for a moment and see how it sounds.

???Hillary Clinton would not have the credentials to run for office if it were not for her husband and former president, Bill Clinton???


???Hillary Clinton would not have the credentials to run for office if she had divorced Bill Clinton???


Sent by Lysia | 2:37 PM | 3-13-2008

First of all, let me state that I do not think that Geraldine Ferraro is a racist, nor do I think her comments were racist, I do think that they were both highly inappropriate and untrue. (2) Let me add that I find it distressing that just because we TALK about things that are ???racial??? we run the risk of being labeled ???racist. (3) I???ll concede that a lot of what has been said and done in this and other campaigns is ???racial???, but it is not always motivated by ???racism.???
A real good example of this is comes from Ferraro???s own statement labeling those that have disagreed with her in this matter as being racist. HilLIARy Klinton has also disagreed with her, ergo, does this mean that HilLIARy is racist also.
("I certainly do repudiate it and I regret deeply that it was said," Clinton replied. "Obviously she doesn't speak for the campaign," she said of Ferraro, adding that "she has resigned from being a member of my very large finance committee." )
HilLIARy is a lot of objectionable things, I???m willing to doubt that being a racist is one of them - as far as I know.
Having said all of that, I am angry about Ferraro???s efforts to diminish the achievements of Barack Obama and other intelligent and successful black men and women that have sought the office for POTUS. Because, most importantly, in addition to their other accomplishments, the bottom line is that these individuals have met the Constitutional requirements to run for the presidency ??? if you can qualify yourself and run for the POTUS outside of those parameters, THEN maybe you can label yourself ???lucky??? and debate other factors.
IMO Ferraro, Pat Buchannan and others are wrong to try and subtly raise the bar to the presidency by either promoting or diminishing one???s race.

Sent by Jerry | 5:01 PM | 3-13-2008

If you read the entire speech and not select certain parts, the point Ms. Ferraro was trying to get across was it is not acceptable to be a racist in this country, but being a sexist is.

Sent by De | 5:21 PM | 3-13-2008

I second Kathleen Eddy Yih's post above. I'm white, female, 53 yo, master's degree--and I didn't change my name when I got married so you know how I feel about equality for women.
Clinton is beyond the pale and has crossed the line twice in this campaign now. Her refusal to name and condemn Ferraro's statements for what they are is despicable campaign opportunism. I have absolutely no respect for Clinton or Ferraro now. Clinton's campaign behavior makes it clear she doesn't have the tact or judgment to be White House receptionist much less President.
And to think I started this campaign season with mildly favorable opinions toward Clinton, although I was supporting no one.

Sent by Leslie | 11:20 PM | 3-13-2008

I am perplexed why the "black"ness of Obama is an issue in this campaign. What should be considered is: did he have the experience of a "Black" person growing up in a black family in USA. Unfortunately, Obama grew up in a white family, and so, he should be judged by his "perceived" experience of a black person in USA, and I would like to hear more about this issue before judging whether his perception of how a black person grows up in USA would help him (or hurt him), if elected President become more aware of such difficulties faced by a black as well as any under-privileged/discriminated person even this day in the USA.However, the overwhelming majority of black voters seem to be ignoring this. Simply voting for someone whose facial features are like "me" or "my brother" is not the right way of selecting a President of the USA.

Sent by Bob in Boston | 6:31 PM | 3-14-2008

Blackness? African-American!! We African-americans have a little white in all of us. By now most white have a little black in them. Please can we get off of the old issue and move on to repairing the state of this country,. Hum, since we all live here (All of the colors!)

Sent by Delsolver | 3:43 PM | 5-13-2008