From NBC's Christina Jamison and Mark Murray
In the latest dust-up over race in the Democratic contest, BET founder Bob Johnson introduced Hillary Clinton at a town hall today at Columbia University. And in his remarks, he asked voters -- it was not a predominantly African American crowd -- not to vote for a candidate because they are black or a woman, but because they are the best. He added a shot at Obama:
"As an African American, I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues, when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing but he said it in his book... When they have been involved, to say that these two people would denigrate the accomplishment of civil rights marchers, men and women who were hosed, beaten and bled, and some died... To say and to expect us now all of a sudden to say we are attacking a black man. That kind of campaign behavior does not resonate with me or a guy that says I want to be a reasonable, likeable Sidney Poitier 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.' And I'm thinking to myself, this ain't a movie, Sidney."
In her town hall, Clinton did not bring up the issue. She largely stuck to her stump and took questions from the audience, none of which were about race.
The Obama campaign later produced this statement from former South Carolina Rep. "I.S." Leevy Johnson: "It's offensive that Senator Clinton literally stood by and said nothing as another one of her campaign's top supporters launched a personal, divisive attack on Barack Obama," said Johnson. "For someone who decries the politics of personal destruction, she should've immediately denounced these attacks on the spot."
The Clinton campaign then produced this comment from Johnson: "My comments today were referring to Barack Obama's time spent as a community organizer, and nothing else. Any other suggestion is simply irresponsible and incorrect. When Hillary Clinton was in her twenties she worked to provide protections for abused and battered children and helped ensure that children with disabilities could attend public school. That results oriented leadership -- even as a young person -- is the reason I am supporting Hillary Clinton."