Clinton struggles to quell Kennedy furore

Hillary Clinton plunged into a full-scale damage limitation effort yesterday, insisting that she was misconstrued when she evoked the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968 as a reason for fighting on for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

She portrayed herself as "deeply dismayed and disturbed" by the firestorm generated by her ill-judged remark. "Some took my comments entirely out of context and interpreted them to mean something completely different – and completely unthinkable," she wrote in a front-page commentary in The New York Daily News. "I want to set the record straight: I was making the simple point that given our history, the length of this year's primary contest is nothing unusual."

As she tried to harvest support on the island of Puerto Rico which holds its primary vote on Saturday, Mrs Clinton found herself overwhelmed by a growing swell of media criticism of her RFK remark made during an interview with the editorial board of a newspaper in South Dakota on Friday.

In it, she questioned the pressure being applied to her to bring the marathon nomination contest to an end by surrendering the crown, and therefore the right to run against the Republican John McCain in November, to her rival, Barack Obama. But her mention of the assassination of RFK while he was seeking the Democratic nomination in 1968 triggered charges of poor taste and desperation.

Charles Rangel, the New York congressman and a Clinton supporter, said that she had said "the dumbest thing you could have possibly said". The New York Post, which first broke the story on its website on Friday, splashed the front page of its print editions on Saturday with the headline, "She Said What?"

Her words were clearly poorly chosen for several reasons, not least because the trials and tragedies of the Kennedy clan have been on America's mind since Senator Edward Kennedy was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour last week. Far more troubling, however, was the insinuation seen by some critics of Mrs Clinton that she was persisting just in case the same fate were to meet Mr Obama.

The Illinois senator, who has also been in Puerto Rico, was given an exceptional level of secret service protection early in his campaign because of fears for his safety. Michelle, his wife, once admitted that she was resistant to his running for president because she also worried about him becoming a target. Mrs Clinton's communications chief, Howard Wolfson, also insisted yesterday that she was being unfairly attacked. "She was talking about it in a historical context," he said on CBS. "To claim that she was making any other kind of reference is wrong. And I think some in the news media did overhype this."

The outrage was not universal. Mr Obama himself said Mrs Clinton had made an understandable mistake. "When you are campaigning for as many months as Senator Clinton and I have ...sometimes you get careless," he said. "I think that is what happened here." The son of the murdered Kennedy, Robert Kennedy Jnr, said he had not taken offence.

Stacked against Mrs Clinton is time – after Puerto Rico, the last two states to hold primaries are South Dakota and Montana on 3 June – the delegate count and now her gaffes. Yet, in her newspaper commentary she remained defiant in her pledge to keep going and her belief that, somehow, she can prevail.

Saying her parents did not raise her to "be a quitter" she insisted that she is running "because I believe I'm the strongest candidate to stand toe-to-toe with Senator McCain". She added. "I am not unaware of the challenges or the odds of my securing the nomination – but this race remains extraordinarily close, and hundreds of thousands of people in upcoming primaries are still waiting to vote."

Indeed, her campaign hopes her record of winning broad support from Hispanics will push her past Mr Obama in Puerto Rico. The island is quite unused to the political spotlight. Not a fully-fledged state, its residents do not vote in the presidential election itself, yet it sends 63 delegates to the Democratic convention – more than South Dakota and Montana combined, both of which may tilt to Mr Obama.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before