WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sat with members of the Black Press of America March 12 for an hour-long forum, "A Conversation with Hillary."
About 40 guests and a horde of media gathered at the Washington Hilton Hotel to hear Sen. Clinton field questions about concerns of the African-American community from correspondents associated with the National Newspaper Publishers Association.
Sitting center-stage in a hot-pink wool coat and Black slacks in a living-room like setting, Clinton opened by praising the Black Press saying, among other things, "Many of your publications have been at the forefront of civil rights and women's rights, and so many historical movements."
NNPA Foundation Chair Dorothy Leavell and NNPA Chairman John B. Smith Sr. co-hosted the event in which Clinton often said she was either sorry for or regretted the racial overtones of the campaigns. That included remarks made by 1984 vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, who resigned earlier March 12 as a member of Clinton's finance committee. Ferraro had said of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama: "If Obama was a White man, he would not be in this position."
"I regret that [the comments] were said," Clinton responded. "She doesn't speak for the campaign. She doesn't speak for any of my positions."
She also said she was "sorry if anyone was offended" by remarks made by her husband, President Bill Clinton following the South Carolina Primary. He compared Obama's winning the state to the 1984 and '88 wins of the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.
Most questions from the panelists pertained to public policy issues that desperately affect African-Americans.
One that has become of considerable concern within the African-American community is the subject of HIV/AIDS. Clinton said that, if president, she would be forceful on confronting the issue.
"I would be very aggressive in going into communities and working, in partnership, with organizations such as this, with faith communities, and others, to revitalize our public education and outreach," she said.
On racial profiling, Clinton said more can and should be done to control the problem.
"It goes to the heart to ensure that our criminal justice system, in particular our policing practices, are held to a higher standard," she said.
The enthusiastic audience gathered to meet or ask more questions after the approximately 45-minute forum. Martin Jones, 55, said he hopes that if Clinton is elected she follows through with her proposal of demanding more accountability from law enforcement.
"This is an issue that, for a Black man, is a constant, everyday issue," Jones said. "I hope she does what she says if she does get in, and takes it as seriously as we do."
In talking about the continuing efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast region in the nearly three years since Hurricane Katrina hit, Clinton says that, if elected, she vows to make sure continued reconstruction is a "very high priority" for the federal government. "We owe it to the people along the Gulf Coast to continue that standard."
As well as talking about Ferraro's remarks, Clinton addressed other controversies surrounding her campaign. Recently, she has been taken to task for saying that Obama may not be ready for the presidency, but would make a viable vice president.
While holding a front page headline in the Richmond Free Press that read "Clinton-Obama Ticket?" NNPA Editor-in-Chief Hazel Trice Edney asked Clinton whether she would accept being second in command if Obama, in fact, got the party nomination.
Clinton's response: "We'll finish some time in June, and we'll see where we stand. Only then will someone have the nomination, and only then will the nominee have the chance to pick a running mate."