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Obama calls Punjab jab a 'mistake'

Democratic presidential hopeful Obama admits it was mistake and owns responsibility for the offending statement.

india Updated: Jun 19, 2007 12:12 IST
Arun Kumar

Democratic presidential hopeful Barak Obama admits his campaign's Punjab jab against rival Hillary Clinton was a mistake and owns responsibility for the offending memo although he had not seen it before distribution.

"We have taken appropriate action to prevent errors like this from happening in the future," he said on Monday in a statement to South Asians for Obama, in response to the concerns expressed by the Indian American community.

In his first personal response to the outcry against his campaign's "research memo" last week implying that given Clintons' India connections, the former first lady was better suited to represent the state of Punjab, the rising black star said, "I believe that your concerns with the memo are justified."

"To begin with, the memo did not reflect my own views on the importance of America's relationship with India," he said of the document that identified Clinton as "D-Punjab", a play on journalistic shorthand meant to suggest the senator from New York was actually a Democrat representing the Indian state.

"I have long believed that the best way to promote US economic growth and opportunity for American workers is to continually improve the skills of our own workforce and invest in our own scientific research, technological capacity and infrastructure, rather than to try to insulate ourselves from the global economy," Obama said.

"More importantly, the memo's caustic tone, and its focus on contributions by Indian-Americans to the Clinton campaign, was potentially hurtful, and as such, unacceptable. The memo also ignored my own long-standing relationship to - and support from - the Indian-American community," he said.

"In sum, our campaign made a mistake. Although I was not aware of the contents of the memo prior to its distribution, I consider the entire campaign - and in particular myself - responsible for the mistake. We have taken appropriate action to prevent errors like this from happening in the future."

Earlier, during a meeting with Des Moines Register editors and reporters, Obama referred to the memo as "stupid" and "caustic".

"It was a screw-up on the part of our research team. It wasn't anything I had seen or my senior staff had seen," he was quoted as saying by the paper.

The memo, exposed by the Clinton campaign, referred to Clinton's investments in Indian companies and efforts to raise money from members of the Indian-American community.

It cited comments Clinton made to an Indian-American audience in March in which she said, "I can certainly run for the Senate seat in Punjab and win easily."

"That particular quote was a joke, I think, that Hillary Clinton made to an Indian-American audience," Obama told the Register. "The research team thought it would be clever to put that at the top."

Obama continued, "I thought it was stupid and caustic and not only didn't reflect my view of the complicated issue of outsourcing ... it also didn't reflect the fact that I have longstanding support and friendships within the Indian-American community."

"I take responsibility for it, as does our campaign. And we quickly apologised and are communicating that in various circles around the country."