Former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro said today that she objected to the comparison Sen. Barack Obama drew between her and his former pastor in his speech on race relations Tuesday.
In the speech, Obama sought to place the inflammatory remarks of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in a broader context, in part by placing them on a continuum with Ferraro's recent remark to the Daily Breeze that Obama is "lucky" to be black.
"To equate what I said with what this racist bigot has said from the pulpit is unbelievable," Ferraro said today. "He gave a very good speech on race relations, but he did not address the fact that this man is up there spewing hatred."Ferraro, the only woman to ever run on a major party presidential ticket, sparked a controversy when she told the Breeze that "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position." The resulting controversy was quickly superceded by an even greater furor over Wright's sermons, in which Obama's longtime pastor denounced America and argued that the 9-11 terrorist attacks were retribution for U.S. foreign policy.
In an effort to stem the damage to his presidential campaign, Obama gave a 37-minute speech Tuesday in which he used Ferraro's remarks as a rhetorical foil to Wright's and drew a parallel between black anger and white resentment.
"On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wild- and wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap," Obama said.
"On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation and that rightly offend white and black alike."
Ferraro, who supports Sen. Hillary Clinton, has been unapologetic about her remarks. Clinton has said she disagrees with Ferraro and has accepted Ferraro's resignation from her finance committee.
Ferraro said she had "no clue" why Obama would include her in his speech, and said Obama's association with Wright raises serious questions about his judgment.
"What this man is doing is he is spewing that stuff out to young people, and to younger people than Obama, and putting it in their heads that it's OK to say `Goddamn America' and it's OK to beat up on white people," she said. "You don't preach that from the pulpit."
Ferraro also said she could not understand why Obama had called out his own white grandmother for using racial stereotypes that had made him cringe.
"I could not believe that," she said. "That's my mother's generation."
Obama returned to Ferraro's remarks later in his speech, again drawing a comparison between her and Wright.
"We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro in the aftermath of her recent statements as harboring some deep-seated bias," Obama said.
He went on to argue that such dismissals would foreclose a deeper understanding of racial resentments.
Obama appeared to allude to Ferraro once more when he said that it would be wrong to "pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card."
It was Obama's campaign that drew the most attention to Ferraro's remark last week, and suggested they fit with an pattern of racial comments by Clinton surrogates.
"That's exactly what he did," Ferraro said. "It was their campaign that started this."
In sum, however, Ferraro said she thought the speech was "excellent," and said she understood why Obama could not renounce his association with Wright.
"I think they got as far as they could go politically," she said. "They're looking at their base. Their base is African-Americans. They're looking at that and they're trying to walk a very thin line. They don't want to offend the African-Americans, and this is the way he did it."