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Clinton defends husband on racial issues

February 24, 2008

Hillary Clinton

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., left, listens to Tavis Smiley during a campaign stop during the annual State of the Black Union conference, on Saturday in New Orleans.

NEW ORLEANS – Hillary Rodham Clinton strongly defended her husband’s record on civil rights Saturday at a forum in which she acknowledged “painful moments” in a presidential contest pitting the first woman candidate against a pioneering black contender.

At the annual State of the Black Union conference hosted by PBS’ Tavis Smiley, Clinton pushed back hard on the notion that Bill Clinton had inflamed racial tensions while campaigning for her in the run-up to South Carolina’s primary last month.

The former president — once so popular among black voters he was dubbed the first black president by novelist Toni Morrison — harshly criticized Barack Obama in South Carolina, producing a backlash among blacks that helped lead to his wife’s crushing defeat there.

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