Video: Ferraro defends herself

updated 3/12/2008 6:00:47 PM ET 2008-03-12T22:00:47

Geraldine Ferraro has stepped down from an honorary post she held in Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign amid a controversy regarding comments that Barack Obama wouldn't be succeeding in the presidential race if he weren't black.

Ferraro notified Clinton by letter Wednesday that she would no longer serve on Clinton's finance committee as "Honorary New York Leadership Council Chair."

Obama has called Ferraro's comments "ridiculous" and his campaign aides have called on Clinton to denounce the statement.

"I think they were wrong-headed," he said at a Chicago news conference. "The notion that it is a great advantage to me to be an African American named Barack Obama and pursue the presidency, I think, is not a view that has been commonly shared by the general public."

In a letter to Clinton, first reported by CNN, Ferraro says: "Dear Hillary, I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what's at stake in this campaign. The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won't let that happen. Thank you for everything you've done and continue to do to make this a better world for my children and grandchildren. You have my deep admiration and respect, Gerry."

Campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said Ferraro left the post on her own initiative.

Clinton expressed disagreement with Ferraro's comments, and said, "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."

The back-and-forth between the two Democratic trailblazers — Obama, seeking to be the nation's first black president, and Ferraro, who was the first woman on a major party presidential ticket in 1984 — continued for a second day as they made appearances on network and cable morning news programs.

The controversy began when the national media picked up on comments Ferraro made in an interview last week with the Daily Breeze newspaper in Torrance, Calif.: "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."

Ferraro said she stands by her assertion that Obama's success in the Democratic campaign is due "in part" to his race.

Obama, however, said that if someone in his campaign had suggested that Hillary Clinton "is where she is only because she is a woman" she would be offended.

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Clinton has said she disagrees with Ferraro's remarks. In an interview with The Associated Press, she said, "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."

Video: Race on the campaign trail Ferraro, who was Walter Mondale's vice presidential running mate, said Wednesday that her remarks were not racist and had been taken out of context. She accused Obama's campaign of twisting her remarks to undercut his rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"I was talking about historic candidacies and what I started off by saying (was that) if you go back to 1984 and look at my historic candidacy, which I had just talked about all these things, in 1984 if my name was Gerard Ferraro instead of Geraldine Ferraro, I would have never been chosen as a vice presidential candidate," Ferraro said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "It had nothing to do with my qualification."

Ferraro said she has a 40-year history of opposing discrimination of all kinds, including race, and that she was outraged at criticism of her remarks by David Axelrod, Obama's chief media strategist, because he knows her and her record.

"David Axelrod, his campaign manager, has chose to spin this as a racist comment because everytime anybody makes a comment about race who is white — he did it with Bill Clinton, he was successful; he did it with (Pennsylvania governor and Clinton supporter) Ed Rendell, he was less successful; and he is certainly not going to be successful with me," Ferraro told CBS' "The Early Show." "He should have called me up ... He knows I'm not racist."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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