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Ferraro: 'They're attacking me because I'm white'

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  • NEW: Geraldine Ferraro says she is being attacked because she is white
  • She says Obama would not be a candidate if he were white
  • Obama has called the comments "patently absurd"
  • Clinton says she disagrees with Ferraro's comments
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From Rebecca Sinderbrand
CNN Washington Bureau
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(CNN) -- Geraldine Ferraro defended her controversial comment that Sen. Barack Obama's campaign was successful because he was black, telling an interviewer Tuesday that she was being attacked because she was white.

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Comments by former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro are drawing criticism from the Obama campaign.

"Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says, 'Let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world,' you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up," she told the Daily Breeze of Torrance, California. "Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"

In another interview Tuesday, she compared Obama's situation to her own 24 years ago, when she was the first female candidate for vice president.

She told a FOX News interviewer, "I got up and the question was asked, 'Why do you think Barack Obama is in the place he is today" as the party's delegate front-runner?

"I said in large measure, because he is black. I said, Let me also say in 1984 -- and if I have said it once, I have said it 20, 60, 100 times -- in 1984, if my name was Gerard Ferraro instead of Geraldine Ferraro, I would never have been the nominee for vice president," she said.

In her first interview with Daily Breeze, published late last week, Ferraro said, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman, 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."

She also said Hillary Clinton had been the victim of a "sexist media."

Obama himself has called the comments "patently absurd."

"I don't think Geraldine Ferraro's comments have any place in our politics or in the Democratic Party. They are divisive," he told the Allentown Morning Call.

"I think anybody who understands the history of this country knows they are patently absurd. And I would expect that the same way those comments don't have a place in my campaign, they shouldn't have a place in Sen. Clinton's, either," he added.

Earlier, Obama's top strategist, David Axelrod, called for Clinton to sever ties with the former New York congresswoman, who serves on her campaign's finance committee.

"When you wink and nod at offensive statements, you're really sending a signal to your supporters that anything goes," Axelrod said.

Axelrod said the comment by Ferraro, coupled with Clinton's "own inexplicable unwillingness" to deny that Obama was a Muslim during a recent interview, was part of "an insidious pattern that needs to be addressed."

Ferraro could not be reached for comment.

Clinton told The Associated Press that she did not agree with Ferraro's comments.

"It is regrettable that any of our supporters on both sides, because we've both had that experience, say things that kind of veer off into the personal," she said. "We ought to keep this on the issues. There are differences between us. There are differences between our approaches on health care, on energy, on our experience, on our results that we've produced for people. That's what this campaign should be about."

The former congresswoman is the latest Clinton surrogate to launch a firestorm with comments that related to Obama's heritage or ethnicity.

Clinton's husband, former President Clinton, drew sharp criticism from black leaders for a series of comments he made before the South Carolina primary, including comparing Obama's campaign to the Rev. Jesse Jackson's 1984 run.

Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, a major Clinton backer, said several times that an Obama presidency would improve the world's image of the U.S. because of the Illinois senator's Muslim roots.

Obama, however, said Kerrey's comments were intended to highlight Obama's Muslim heritage in voters' minds.

And shortly before the Texas primary, 84-year-old Clinton supporter Adelfa Callejo told CBS 11 News in Dallas, Texas, that Obama would have trouble attracting Latino support because he was African-American.

"When blacks had the numbers, they didn't do anything to support us," Callejo said. "They always used our numbers to fulfill their goals and objectives, but they never really supported us, and there's a lot of hard feelings about that. I don't think we're going to get over it anytime soon."

Last month, when Hillary Clinton was asked whether she would reject and denounce Callejo's remarks, she said, "People get to express their opinions," adding that "a lot of folks have said really unpleasant things about me over the course of this campaign."

Later, her campaign released a statement saying that she had been unaware of the substance of the remarks during that interview and both denounced and rejected them.

Obama has faced his own headaches. Foreign policy adviser Samantha Power ended her connection with his campaign last week after telling a Scottish interviewer that Clinton was a "monster."

Power also made remarks about Obama's Iraq war policy that were used by the Clinton campaign in recent attacks. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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