Jones' Obama pitch to black Democrats stirs controversy
WASHINGTON -- Seeking to solidify African-American backing for Barack Obama's presidential bid, Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr. told black Democrats meeting here last week they don't "owe" anyone, alluding to, but not mentioning by name, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Obama, said Jones, "is our son."
In a Monday telephone interview, Jones, Obama's political godfather, told me, "How long do we have to owe before we have an opportunity to support our son?
"And I know that Barack Obama is our son and he deserves our support."
He made a similar race-based appeal to a group of black Democratic activists Friday at a closed Democratic National Committee winter meeting.
"Nobody in that room had any doubt that he was speaking about the Clintons," said Jamal Simmons, a Democratic consultant who was there.
President Clinton enjoyed tremendous support from black voters; it will not be automatically transferred to Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Obama, who would be the first African-American nominee, will have to work for some black endorsements. Jones' pitch for Obama, Simmons added, "exposed internal conflicts" within the African-American political community.
Jones said his comments, first reported in Monday's the Politico, were not that different than when he stumped for black votes during Obama's contested 2004 Illinois Senate Democratic primary.
Jones said he was moved to try to recruit Obama backers when he realized senior Clinton adviser Minyon Moore -- who is a Chicago native -- was at the meeting.
The controversy triggered by Jones was picked up by CNN Monday, and the Rev. Al Sharpton told CNN that Jones "could offend people by saying you got to unite just because someone is your race."
Sharpton noted that Obama endorsed Mayor Daley for re-election over two black candidates, so it would not follow to ask blacks "to do something for Obama that he himself is not doing at home."