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    Controversial remarks in recent presidential campaigns

    Ron Edmonds/associated press/file

    Rush Limbaugh’s comments about a female law student who testified in favor of President Obama’s contraception policy have played a role in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Some analysts say Mitt Romney missed his chance to more forcefully repudiate Limbaugh’s attacks in recent days, and that this could reverberate in the general election if he gets the GOP nod.

    The Boston Globe/file
    Sister Souljah.

    But this is not the first time that comments made by individuals not necessarily related to a candidate have affected national campaigns.

    Sister Souljah

    Two weeks after the 1992 Los Angeles riots, the African American activist, writer, and performer was quoted as saying, “I mean, if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?”


    When Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton denounced the remarks, it was seen as a defining moment in his campaign.

    Accusations about Obama’s background

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    During the 2008 presidential race, Republican nominee John McCain bluntly corrected a woman at a town-hall meeting in Minnesota who called Barack Obama “an Arab.” McCain’s reaction was portrayed as evidence of the Arizona senator’s professed dislike of name-calling and personal attacks.

    Jeremiah Wright

    Brendan Smialowski/Bloomberg News/file
    Jeremiah Wright.

    Also in 2008, President Obama’s campaign was nearly derailed by a controversy over his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, whose sermons included suggestions that American “terrorism” led to the Sept. 11 attacks. Amid the ensuing firestorm, Obama was compelled to repudiate Wright, his spiritual mentor and the man who had baptized his children.

    Bill Ayers

    The McCain campaign ran ads condemning an alleged relationship between Obama and Ayers, a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago and former leader of the radical 1970s group Weather Underground. The Obama campaign vigorously denied the accusations.

    In the 2008 Democratic primary, Republicans pilloried Hillary Clinton and Obama for failing to swiftly denounce a ad that labeled General David H. Petraeus “General Betray Us.” The advocacy group removed the videos from its website in 2010, according to reports, after President Obama named Petraeus to lead the war in Afghanistan.

    Bill Maher


    More recently, Republicans have demanded that President Obama return a $1 million donation that politically outspoken comedian Bill Maher made to his super PAC. The GOP critics have pointed out that Maher has made inflammatory comments about Sarah Palin, among others, as part of his performances. Obama’s campaign has not returned the funds at this time.