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Clinton apologizes to black voters

  • Story Highlights
  • Sen. Clinton speaks at a gathering of black newspaper publishers Wednesday
  • Clinton tries to make amends with black voters after Geraldine Ferraro's comments
  • "I rejected what she said and I certainly do repudiate it," Clinton said
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From Suzanne Malveaux and Matthew Hoye
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Clinton apologized to a gathering of black newspaper publishers Wednesday for a top fundraiser's controversial comments that Sen. Barack Obama's race has helped his candidacy.

The New York senator found herself in the hot seat after the remarks by Geraldine Ferraro -- a former New York congresswoman, Democratic vice presidential candidate and Clinton supporter.

"I rejected what she said and I certainly do repudiate it," Clinton said at the National Newspaper Publishers Association meeting in Washington.

Ferraro resigned from the campaign Wednesday after widespread criticism over her comments about Obama's race, originally published late last week in the Torrance, California, Daily Breeze.

"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 said.Video Watch analysts weigh in over Ferraro's comments »

Clinton was asked about remarks her husband, former President Bill Clinton, made while on the trail for his wife in South Carolina last month in which he seemed to imply that Obama's success in South Carolina would largely be based on his race.

"I'm sorry if anyone was offended. It certainly was not meant in anyway to be offensive," she said.

She even apologized for President Bush's lackluster response regarding Hurricane Katrina.

"I apologize and I am embarrassed that our federal government so mistreated our citizens."

Her aides say this is not a mea culpa tour, but rather a clear message that she has not given up on the black vote.

"So the numbers are skewed and it appears that we are losing ground in the African American community. She is not conceding that vote whatsoever," a Clinton spokesperson said.

But looking ahead, she certainly has her work cut out for her.

While Obama has steadily seen his African American support grow -- 78 percent in South Carolina, 90 percent in Virginia and 92 percent in Mississippi -- Clinton has lost ground.

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"They're open to her, but at this point they're kind of lukewarm because of the disparaging comments of some of her people, not necessarily hers," said John Smith, chairman of the NNPA.

While Clinton tries to minimize the damage, she is leaning on loyalists like Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. High profile supporters will help, but Clinton needs votes to win and she will almost certainly campaign relentlessly to get them. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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