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Inside Politics

Dean: 'I apologize' for flag remark

'We have to have an open dialogue about race'

Howard Dean's interview with CNN's Bill Hemmer on
Howard Dean's interview with CNN's Bill Hemmer on "American Morning" aired on Thursday.

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Democratic presidential nomination candidate Howard Dean talks to CNN's Bill Hemmer on Thursday.
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CNN's Bill Schneider on Howard Dean's 'regret' over his Confederate flag comments.
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CNN's Candy Crowley reports on how the forum went in Boston.
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Howard Dean
America Votes 2004
Democratic Party
Bill Hemmer

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean, under fire for saying he wanted to be a candidate for "guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks," issued an apology for his remark Thursday.

Dean said he used poor judgment in what was a sincere attempt to signal his effort to bring conservative but poor white voters into the Democratic Party fold.

"I think I made a mistake," Dean told CNN's Bill Hemmer on "American Morning." Dean also said he is confident his remark won't sink his campaign ship.

"I apologize for it. I think it's time to move on. The people who are most concerned about this are the people who are with us. I think we'll be fine."

But he stressed that "we have to have an open dialogue about race in this country."

Dean was lambasted for his remarks in Tuesday night's Rock the Vote forum by other Democratic candidates. (Full story)

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina said, "The last thing we need in the South is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do." He told Dean the remarks were condescending. "The people I grew up with, the vast majority of them, they don't drive around with Confederate flags on pickup trucks," Edwards said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton told Dean: "You are not a bigot, but you appear to be too arrogant to say, 'I'm wrong,' and go on."

Dean didn't apologize for his remarks that night, stressing that his intentions were to bring together races that have been divided by the Republicans since the late 1960s.

On Wednesday, he said he regretted any pain that his comments may have caused to Southern white and African-American voters "in the beginning of this discussion" on race. (Full story)

In his remarks at Cooper Union in New York, he said he didn't condone the use of the Confederate flag and asserted that there is only one flag -- the American flag.

On Thursday, Dean said the regret he expressed was an apology.

"I got off to a pretty clumsy start by making references to the Confederate flag and that was a painful reference for a number of people and I regret that and apologize for it."

Dean was asked by Hemmer why he didn't apologize during the Boston forum, in which young people asked Democratic candidates an array of questions.

"I tend to be somebody, who under pressure, tends to fight back," Dean said.

"When they come after me I tend not to give an inch. I had the opportunity to think about it most of the night and I concluded that I was wrong."

But Dean said his African-American supporters from the start have understood the thrust of his remarks -- that he wants to bring poor white voters who vote Republican but would appear to be ripe to support Democrats back to the party in the South, now dominated by the GOP.

"Certainly I'm going to make mistakes. I'm not perfect. I don't think anybody who has ever been president is perfect."

And he stressed that Americans have to have "a candid, open discussion about race in this country. If we don't do it things are not going to improve."

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