Clyburn blames Huckabee for racial tensions between Clinton, Obama

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) is blaming a Republican presidential candidate for the racial divide that has emerged between Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

During an interview Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” with Joe Scarborough, Clyburn pointed the finger at former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) for injecting race into the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary.

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“I don’t want to sound disingenuous here but we were doing well with this whole issue coming out of New Hampshire,” Clyburn said, noting that Obama had the support of Reps. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) and Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.), who are both white.

“It was not until Huckabee sort of brought the Confederate battle flag into this thing,” Clyburn said. “Nobody’s been talking about that. And I guarantee you people recoiled when he did. You remember not only did he talk about the flag in a disparaging way but he talked about what the people of Arkansas would do with the pole of the flag...That’s the kind of stuff that brought this back into [the Democratic presidential] campaign and it was not here until he did that.”

Before the GOP presidential primary in South Carolina earlier this month, Huckabee said, “You don’t like people from outside the state coming and telling you how you ought to raise your kids. You don’t like people coming from outside the state coming down and telling you what you want to do with your flag. In fact, if someone came to the state of Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell them where to put the pole – that’s what we’d do.”

Pressed how a Republican would affect the tone in the Democratic presidential race, Clyburn said Huckabee “opened Pandora’s box"” but added the former governor’s comment should not be used as an excuse for how race has been handled by the Democratic campaigns. 

“Gov. Huckabee is a strong proponent of the 10th amendment, which was the basis for his remarks in South Carolina last week. He does not, in any way, condone or support any type of discrimination for whatever reason,” said Huckabee spokeswoman Kirsten Fedewa in response to Clyburn's remarks. “His record as governor of Arkansas was one of inclusion and promotion for people based on their talent and experience, and his vision for America is one of hope, opportunity and prosperity of all Americans.

“With all due to respect to Congressman Clyburn, it is more than stretch to somehow blame a Republican candidate for the discourse among Democrats in their primary fight,” Fedewa added.

Clyburn, who is the highest-ranking African-American in the House, has not endorsed a presidential candidate. He has, however, criticized the Clinton campaign -- and specifically Bill Clinton -- for comments on race in the lead up to Saturday’s primary in South Carolina.

According to a new McClatchy-MSNBC poll, African-Americans in South Carolina back Obama with 59 percent, Clinton with 25 percent and 4 percent for former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).

Bill Clinton attracted 75 percent of the black vote in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary.