Bill Clinton On African-American Anger: "I Don't Think It'll Last"

08/04/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • NYT

THE streets were bright with promise on the sunny July day in 2001 when former President Bill Clinton arrived in Harlem, the historic capital of black America, to celebrate the opening of his office on 125th Street. A chant of "We love Bill!" rose from the adoring crowd of 2,000 well-wishers, some of whom wore buttons and waved fans decorated with Mr. Clinton's face.


But the relationship between Mr. Clinton and Harlem's African-American community has gone through a distinctly rocky patch this year. Many black residents say they were hurt and angered by what they perceived as racially disrespectful comments made by Mr. Clinton during the Democratic presidential primary fight between Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya ...

[I]n dozens of interviews with Harlem's African-American residents, business people and community leaders, strong currents of disappointment and resentment toward the former president were evident.

"You sold us down the river, Bill; you took us for granted," said Darlene Sims, co-owner of an Internet cafe in Harlem. "There's a definite level of betrayal, of 'You done us wrong by marginalizing us.' "

Mr. Clinton, who agreed to be interviewed for this article on the condition that he not be asked questions about the presidential campaign or politics in general, said he did not expect the hard feelings to linger.

"I don't think it'll last," he said, adding that he was touched that his wife had won 53 percent of the vote in Representative Charles Rangel's Congressional district in the New York primary on Feb. 5.

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