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Sweet: Obama, Clinton try to put lid on injection of race in campaign.

The view near the Centennial Hills Community Center, where former President Bill Clinton stumped Monday for his wife. (photos by Lynn Sweet)

LAS VEGAS, NV.–In a series of network interviews and at a press conference in Reno on Monday, Barack Obama sought to put the brakes on the growing conversation–in the political media–about whether remarks by the Clintons and some surrogates were racially insensitive.

Former President Bill Clinton was up at 4 a.m. on Monday to call into three radio shows with African-American audiences to do– I’m calling it damage control for lack of a better phrase.

Meanwhile, by the end of the day, both Obama and Clinton tried, in statements, to get the emphasis away from race. Obama called a press conference because, he said, “I wanted to take the time to talk to all of you a little bit because I have been a little concerned about the type of campaign you have heard over the last couple of days.”

Obama also said, “I think over the last couple of days you have seen a tone on the Democratic side of the campaign that I think is unfortunate and what I want to do is just to stipulate a couple of things.I think that I may disagree with Senator Clinton or Senator Edwards on how to get there, but we share the same goals.Were all Democrats, we all believe in civil rights we all believe in equal rights. We all believe that regardless of race or gender that people should have equal opportunity.

I think that they are good people they are patriotsand that they are running because they think they can lead this country to a better place and I dont want the campaign at this stage to degenerate into so much tit for tat back and forth that we lose sight of why all of us are doing this and it is because of some of the people who I met here today who are losing their homes or struggling with healthcare or dont have enough money to help their children and I am worried that may get lost.”

Asked if the Clintons have shown racial insensitivity in the last few days?

Obama said, “you know I dont want to rehash that. Here is what I can tell you. I think that Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton have historically and consistently been on the right side of civil rights issues. I think that they care about the African American community and they care about all Americans. And they want to see people of equal race and equal justice in this country. And that is something I am convinced of and I want to make sure that the American people understand that is my assessment.”

CLINTON STATEMENT……

Over this past week, there has been a lot of discussion and back and forth – much of which I know does not reflect what is in our hearts.

And at this moment, I believe we must seek common ground.

Our party and our nation is bigger than this. Our party has been on the front line of every civil rights movement, women’s rights movement, workers’ rights movement, and other movements for justice in America.

We differ on a lot of things. And it is critical to have the right kind of discussion on where we stand. But when it comes to civil rights and our commitment to diversity, when it comes to our heroes – President John F. Kennedy and Dr. King Senator Obama and I are on the same side.

And in that spirit, let’s come together, because I want more than anything else to ensure that our family stays together on the front lines of the struggle to expand rights for all Americans.