NJ Congressman: Clinton camp used divisive tactics

June 6, 2008 8:00:52 PM PDT
A Democratic congressman accused Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign of trying to exploit tensions between Jews and blacks. Rep. Rob Andrews, who had endorsed Clinton, said Friday that he brought up the issue this week because he believed talking about it would help reunite the nation's divided Democrats.

Andrews said that he made some positive comments about Obama just before Pennsylvania's April 22 primary, and received a call from a high-ranking person in Clinton's campaign shortly afterward.

The caller told him about a campaign strategy to win Jewish voters by exploiting tensions between Jews and blacks, said Andrews, who declined to name the caller.

"There have been signals coming out of the Clinton campaign that have racial overtones that indeed disturb me," Andrews said. "Frankly, I had a private conversation with a high-ranking person in the campaign ... that used a racial line of argument that I found very disconcerting. It was extremely disconcerting given the rank of this person. It was very disturbing."

Andrews first talked publicly about his claims in an interview with The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. published Friday.

Clinton spokesman Phil Singer denied the accusation. "Comments like these, coming so soon after Congressman Andrews' crushing defeat, are sad and divisive," Singer said, referring to Andrews' unsuccessful Democratic primary challenge against incumbent Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Andrews said he did not talk publicly about the call before because this week because he did not want to appear to be making an unfair play for Obama supporters in his own primary campaign.

He said he came forward in an effort to reunite the Democratic Party, which has divided its support nearly equally between Obama and Clinton.

"I guess I'm a believer that you should talk honestly about problems before you can solve them," Andrews told The Associated Press on Friday.

A superdelegate, Andrews said he continues to support Clinton and believes she is qualified to be president.

He said he expects to switch his support to Obama after Clinton formally concedes he has won the nomination, a move expected to happen on Saturday.