February 11, 2008
British Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing caused uproar last night by predicting the assassination of Barack Obama if he becomes the first black U.S. president.
The 88-year-old novelist’s remarks came as the Democratic candidate toasted the most successful day in his White House campaign.
Mr Obama, the 46-year-old son of a black Kenyan man and a white American, dismissed Mrs Lessing’s comments.
Miss Lessing said: “He would probably not last long, a black man in the position of president. They would kill him.”
She said it would be better if Mrs Clinton, 60, became America’s first woman president with Obama as her running mate.
“Hillary is a very sharp lady. It might be calmer if she wins,” she told a Swedish newspaper.
But one Democratic analyst said: “Suggesting Obama is in danger if he wins the election in November is not only divisive, it is insulting to the American people.”
Princeton University political science professor-Melissa Harris-Lacewell raised assassination fears last month, saying: “For many black supporters, there is a lot of anxiety that he will be killed. It is on people’s minds.
“You can’t make a prediction like this – like he has a 50 per cent chance of getting shot.
“But the greater his visibility and the greater his access to people, there is a danger.”
Last month, TV host Harry Smith caused an outcry, asking Ted Kennedy, brother of assassinated President John F. Kennedy: “Sometimes agents of change end up being targets. Doesn’t it make you at all fearful?”
Black presidential candidate Jesse Jackson received death threats during his campaigns in the Eighties and former Secretary of State Colin Powell ruled out a White House run after his wife feared he would be killed.
Illinois senator Mr Obama chalked up a clean sweep in voting on Saturday to win fresh momentum in his deadlocked race with
He easily won the Louisiana primary and caucuses in Nebraska and Washington state, as well as a victory in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The gains cut into the former first lady’s slim lead, leaving Mr Obama ahead in a Newsweek poll by 42 per cent to 41 per cent.
Mr Obama was expected to do well again in tomorrow’s primaries in Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland, which all have a high black population.
Mr Obama is battling behind the scenes to persuade the “super delegates”, the elected Democrat officials who can make up their own minds who to back, to switch allegiance to him, particularly those representing states where he was clearly the popular choice. Mrs Clinton has kept a comparatively low profile, focusing her energies on the next big states to vote on March 4 in Ohio and Texas, where she is leading in the polls.
But she hit out angrily last night over claims that she was “pimping out” her daughter Chelsea, 27, to win votes, insisting she was a mother first and a politician second.
Responding to a comment by American TV reporter David Shuster, she said: “I found the remarks incredibly offensive.”
Shuster was suspended by cable channel MSNBC on Friday despite apologising on air.
Republican front-runner John McCain suffered a setback at the weekend when his only remaining challenger, former Arkansas governor and preacher Mike Huckabee, 53, beat him in Louisiana and Kansas.
But with almost two-thirds of the Republicans delegates wrapped up, it would take a calamity for the 71-year-old Arizona senator to lose the nomination.