A prominent Hillary Clinton supporter resigned from the campaign yesterday after saying that Barack Obama was being treated preferentially by the public and the media because of his race.
Geraldine Ferraro, the only woman to have run for the vice-presidential nomination, has been embroiled in controversy since she made the remarks last week.
She said then: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position [in the race for the White House]". Prominent Clinton supporters have been responsible for a series of disparaging remarks about Mr Obama during the race, but Mrs Ferraro's were the most incendiary.
Yesterday, the controversy flared again when Mrs Ferraro refused to apologise for her remarks on the morning television shows. She said her words were taken out of context and she accused the Obama campaign of painting her as a racist – and using the remarks to undercut Mrs Clinton in their race for the White House nomination.
She said the Obama campaign was twisting her words to stir racial tensions following his victory in Mississippi's primary on Tuesday where an overwhelming number of blacks supported him.
The former congresswoman from New York, who was Walter Mondale's running mate in 1984 in his unsuccessful run for the presidency, told ABC television she was "absolutely not" sorry for what she said about Mr Obama. She has a 40-year history of opposing discrimination of all kinds, she said.
Mr Obama has expressed frustration that race keeps being introduced into the nomination battle. "We keep on thinking we've dispelled this," he said. "And it keeps on getting raised once again."
Mrs Clinton publicly distanced herself from Mrs Ferraro's comments, saying: "It's regrettable that any of our supporters – on both sides, because we both have this experience – say things that kind of veer off into the personal."
Last week Mr Obama's foreign policy adviser, Samantha Power, called Mrs Clinton a "monster" in an interview. She quickly issued an apology and resigned. Mr Obama's Mississippi victory has taken some of the wind out of Mrs Clinton's sails; he now leads in the race and picked up 19 delegates in Mississippi against 14 for Mrs Clinton.
He now has 1,598 delegates to her 1,487. It takes 2,025 to win the nomination at the party's nominating convention in Denver in late August. Both sides are courting the nearly 800 super-delegates – elected officials and party leaders.