"Dr. King didn't just give speeches, he marched, he organized, he was gassed, he was beaten, he was jailed. He understood that he had to move the political process and bring in those who were in political power. And he campaigned for political leaders, including [President] Lyndon Johnson, because he wanted somebody in the White House who would act on what he had devoted his life to achieving," she said.
"I think it's important to set the record straight. Clearly we know from media reports that the Obama campaign is deliberately distorting this and you know, I think we should just take a step out here for a minute. This is the most exciting election we've had in such a long time because you have an African-America, an extraordinary man, a person of tremendous talents and abilities running to become our president. You have a woman running to break the highest and hardest glass ceiling. I don't think either of us want to inject race or gender into his campaign."
Asked about Clinton's "Meet the Press" comments on a telephone conference call with reporters this morning, Obama had a blistering response, calling Clinton's suggestion that his campaign was involved in pushing the storyline "ludicrous".
"This is fascinating to me," he began. "I think what we saw this morning was why the American people are tired of Washington politicians and the games they play.
"Look, the, Sen. Clinton made an unfortunate remark, an ill advised remark, about King and Lyndon Johnson," Obama said. "I didn't make the statement. I haven't remarked on it. And she, I think, offended some folks who felt that somehow diminished King's role in bringing about the civil rights act. She is free to explain that. But the notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous."
On "Meet the Press," Clinton also defended her husband's remark to a Dartmouth College audience last weekend, in which he referred to the media's portrayal of Obama's record on Iraq as a "fairy tale."
"What he (Bill Clinton) was talking about was very directly about the story of Sen. Obama's campaign, being premised on a speech he gave in 2002 and that was to his credit," she said. "He gave a speech opposing the war in Iraq. He gave a very impassioned speech against it and consistently said that he was against the war, he would vote against the funding for the war. By 2003, that speech was off his Web site. By 2004, he was saying that he didn't really disagree with the way George Bush was conducting the war. And by 2005, 6 and 7, he was voting for $300 billion in funding for the war."
Clinton said, as her husband has said repeated lately, that it is fair to ask questions about Obama's opposition to the war and what he did after his 2002 speech.
"When he became a senator, he didn't go to the floor of the Senate to condemn the war in Iraq for 18 months. He didn't introduce legislation against the war in Iraq. He voted against timelines and deadlines initially. So I think it's important that we get the contrast and the comparisons out. I think that's fair game," she said.
On the conference call, Obama offered a rebuttal.
"I have to point out that instead of telling the American people about her positive vision for America, Sen. Clinton spent an hour talking about me, and my record in a way that was flat-out wrong," he said.
"She suggested that I didn't clearly and vigorously oppose the war in Iraq, when it's absolutely clear to anybody who has followed this that I did. I stood up against the war when she was voting for it, at a time when she didn't read intelligence reports or give diplomacy a chance," he said.
Obama accused Clinton of rewriting history and trying to score political points.
"She started this campaign saying that she wanted to make history and lately and she's been spending a lot of time rewriting it. And I know that in Washington it's acceptable to say or do anything it takes to get elected, but I really don't think that's the kind of politics that's good for our party," he said. "I don't think it's good for our country and I think that the American people are going to reject it in this election."