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Geraldine Ferraro Speaks Up

New Duranty: PHILADELPHIA — The Democratic presidential contest was jolted Tuesday by accusations surrounding race and sex, set off by remarks from Geraldine A. Ferraro that Senator Barack Obama had received preferential treatment because he is a black man.

Ms. Ferraro, the former congresswoman and vice-presidential candidate who backs Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, told The Daily Breeze, a newspaper in Torrance, Calif.: “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”...

But Ms. Ferraro’s comments dominated the day. Reached at her home in Manhattan on Tuesday evening, she said that, in her original remarks, she was asked why there had been so much excitement about Mr. Obama’s candidacy. “And I said, ‘I think part of it is because he’s black,’ ” she said. “People are excited about this historic candidacy. I am, too.”

But the Obama campaign “twisted” her remarks, she said. “I am livid at this thing,” she said. “Any time you say anything to anybody about the Obama campaign, it immediately becomes a racist attack.”

The Clinton campaign did not contact her on Tuesday, Ms. Ferraro said. “I don’t want them to reach out to me,” she said. “I’m exercising my First Amendment rights. If they don’t like it, tough. I don’t intend ever to have anybody tell me that I can’t say what I want to say.”

Ms. Ferraro said her involvement with the Clinton campaign had been vastly overstated. When asked what her role is, she said: “None. None.”

Last fall, Ms. Ferraro also indicated that she thought Mr. Obama was getting preferential treatment from the press. “It’s O.K. in this country to be sexist,” she said then. “’It’s certainly not O.K. to be racist. I think if Barack Obama had been attacked for two hours — well, I don’t think Barack Obama would have been attacked for two hours,” she said, referring to a Democratic debate.


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