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Clinton: Wright 'would not have been my pastor'

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By Mike Wereschagin David Brown and Salena Zito
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a wide-ranging interview today with Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporters and editors, said she would have left her church if her pastor made the sort of inflammatory remarks Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor made.

"He would not have been my pastor," Clinton said. "You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend."

Obama's lead in national polls had slipped since clips of the retired Rev. Jeremiah Wright began being played on national news programs, but he has since rebounded, according to a Gallup poll. The uproar prompted Obama to give a major speech on race in America last week.

His campaign accused Clinton of exploiting the controversy.

"After originally refusing to play politics with this issue, it's disappointing to see Hillary Clinton's campaign sink to this low in a transparent effort to distract attention away from the story she made up about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia. The truth is, Barack Obama has already spoken out against his pastor's offensive comments and addressed the issue of race in America with a deeply personal and uncommonly honest speech. The American people deserve better than tired political games that do nothing to solve the larger challenges facing this country," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

Clinton said she was "sleep-deprived" and "misspoke" when she said last week that she landed under sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia in 1996, when she was first lady.

The Clinton campaign had refrained from getting involved in the Wright controversy, but Clinton herself, responding to a question this morning, denounced what she said was "hate speech."

"You know, I spoke out against Don Imus (who was fired from his radio and television shows after making racially insensitive remarks), saying that hate speech was unacceptable in any setting, and I believe that," Clinton said. "I just think you have to speak out against that. You certainly have to do that, if not explicitly, then implicitly by getting up and moving."

Clinton's 90-minute interview covered topics from pledged delegates to Iraq.

Among her other statements this morning:

• On superdelegates:

"The governor from Tennessee (Phil Bredesen) suggested that there be a convention of superdelegates, and I think that it is an intriguing idea. I have not considered it long enough to have an opinion on it."

On seating the delegations from the Michigan and Florida primaries:

"I don't understand what (Obama) is afraid of, or why he has taken this hard-line stand against Michigan re-voting and Florida re-voting."

• On the possibility of Gov. Ed Rendell becoming her running mate:

"It's premature to say that I would have Governor Rendell, but I have a lot of regard for the governor."

• On Social Security:

"We need to have a bipartisan commission much like President Reagan and Tip O'Neill had in the '80s where they worked together, and we have lived off of those efforts. But we need to do something now. One of the caveats that I would have is that people that are presently on Social Security or about to go on Social Security not be affected."

• On earmarks:

"I joined in the earmark moratorium," Clinton said, adding with a smile, "Obviously I've gotten earmarks, and I think all my earmarks have been wonderful and very important for New York. I'm very proud of my earmarks. It's one of the reasons I won 67 percent of the vote, because I took care of my people. But I also know there have been a lot of abuses." Additional Information:

Complete interview

Audio: Clinton interview

Sen. Hillary Clinton sat for a 90-minute interview today with Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporters and editors. The audio of the interview is divided into two parts and can be downloaded.

Click here to download the 38-megabyte part 1.

Click here to download the 48-megabyte part 2.

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