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Politics

Journalists ask if she's 'black enough'

By ERIC DEGGANS, Times TV/Media Critic
Published August 10, 2007


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LAS VEGAS - It probably wasn't a question Hillary Clinton expected to face, even at a national convention of black journalists.

But CNN anchor Suzanne Malveaux, acting as moderator during Clinton's appearance Thursday at the National Association of Black Journalists' annual gathering, uncorked it anyway:

"Are you black enough?" asked Malveaux, echoing a question often asked of rival Democratic candidate Barack Obama, who is biracial. "What makes you a better candidate over a black man representing issues confronting African-Americans?"

Facing a room packed with more than 1,000 journalists, Clinton chuckled a bit before launching into a generalized tribute to campaign diversity.

"I am thrilled to be running at a time when, on the stage, you can see an African-American man, a Hispanic man and a woman," she said, referring to Obama and fellow Democratic candidate Bill Richardson. "Democratic primary voters don't have to be against anyone. You can be for the person you believe will do the best job as our president."

That was the tone during much of Clinton's 30-minute appearance, in which she answered questions from the crowd after a short speech.

Through queries about post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding, picking an ethical attorney general and genocide in Darfur, the candidate offered responses so lengthy and generalized, some audience members wondered if she actually answered the questions.

The exception: when talk turned to health care reform; particularly after Republican blogger Kiara Ashanti insisted Clinton's proposals amounted to "socialized medicine."

"I've never advocated socialized medicine, and I hope all the journalists hear that," said Clinton, who then suggested Ashanti speak to her aides for more facts if she was "interested in being educated, instead of being rhetorical."

It was a powerful comeback - the New York Times called it an "artful diss" and "snap! moment" - that galvanized a crowd hoping for some political heat.

Clinton's appearance capped a busy morning that included awards to CNN for diverse coverage and a critical Thumbs Down award to Black Entertainment Television for fostering negative images of black people.

NABJ also pledged to join with the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization to continue the work of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey, who was gunned down last week by a young man reportedly trying to stop negative articles about an area Muslim organization.

This morning, Obama is expected to speak before the convention, which months ago invited the top three candidates of both the Democratic and Republican parties to appear. Republican candidates Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney all declined, while Democratic hopeful John Edwards couldn't reconcile his schedule with the convention's plans.

Still, NABJ president Bryan Monroe resisted the idea that the convention's 3,000 attendees might offer a friendlier platform for Democrats.

"We're a group of journalists who write credibly about all parties ... and can be critical of anyone," he said. "If some candidates can't see that, that's their problem."

[Last modified August 10, 2007, 01:07:17]


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