WASHINGTON — Two Democratic presidential campaigns angrily accused the other of nasty politics on Wednesday over a Hollywood donor who once backed Hillary Rodham Clinton's husband but now backs her top rival.
The Clinton campaign sent out a testy news release after DreamWorks movie studio founder David Geffen, a fan of Sen. Barack Obama, told The New York Times that Sen. Clinton was ambitious and polarizing.
"CLINTON CAMP TO OBAMA: CUT TIES & RETURN CASH AFTER TOP BOOSTERS VICIOUS ATTACKS," screamed the headline of the news release.
Geffen hosted a $1.3 million fundraiser for Obama on Tuesday and is backing the Illinois senator.
'Slash and burn politics'
The Clinton campaign argued that Obama had vowed to bring a more civil tone to the debate - a platform that has been drawing large crowds - and Geffen's words amounted to "slash and burn" politics.
Geffen was once a top donor to former President Clinton, but said in the interview that Clinton is "a reckless guy" and he doesn't think Sen. Clinton can bring the country together during a time of war, no matter how smart or ambitious she is. Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson said there is no room in the campaign for such "personal insults."
"If Senator Obama is indeed sincere about his repeated claims to change the tone of our politics, he should immediately denounce these remarks, remove Mr. Geffen from his campaign and return his money," Wolfson said.
Obama critical response
The Obama campaign declined to denounce Geffen or give back any money but issued its own statement in response, criticizing Clinton.
"We aren't going to get in the middle of a disagreement between the Clintons and someone who was once one of their biggest supporters," Obama communications director Robert Gibbs said in a statement. "It is ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen when he was raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln bedroom."
Then Gibbs added another criticism of Clinton.
"It is also ironic that Senator Clinton lavished praise on Monday and is fully willing to accept today the support of South Carolina state Sen. Robert Ford, who said if Barack Obama were to win the nomination, he would drag down the rest of the Democratic Party because 'he's black,'" Gibbs' statement said.
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Ford drew widespread criticism for his comment and later apologized, and Clinton said she appreciated his apology.
Geffen did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Fundraising is critical to the candidates, underscored by an appeal from former President Clinton to raise $1 million in netroots contributions over the next week for his wife's candidacy.
"All across the country, Hillary is campaigning with the signature wisdom, grace, and humor that make her a great candidate," Bill Clinton said in the letter. "I know that if we all work hard enough, those same traits will make her an even better president."
The former president, who is pictured on the letter with his arms wrapped lovingly around his wife, also warns that "with Republicans using everything in their arsenal to stop her campaign, Hillary is going to need every one of us to do everything that we can for her. "
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