NEW YORK Former President Bill Clinton said on Friday Barack Obama's bid to be president was no "fairy tale" and said his use of that phrase earlier in the week referred specifically to Obama's claims about his stance on the Iraq war.
The former president drew criticism for the "fairy tale" comment he made while campaigning in New Hampshire for his wife Hillary Clinton, Obama's main rival for the Democratic Party nomination in the November presidential election.
"Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen," Clinton had said in accusing Obama of distorting his stance on the war.
The most senior black in the Democratic congressional leadership, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, told The New York Times on Friday that he may end his neutrality in his state's January 26 primary because of recent remarks by the Clintons, including the "fairy tale" comment.
Obama, 46, would be the first black president and Clinton, 60, would be the first woman president.
Bill Clinton called civil rights leader Al Sharpton's radio show on Friday to say the remark had been taken out of context. "There's nothing fairy tale about his campaign. It's real, it's strong and he might win," Clinton said.
He stood by his comment as a response to Obama's argument that, unlike Hillary Clinton, he never voted to authorize the Iraq war in 2003 and had opposed it consistently since 2002.
"I pointed out that he had never been asked about his statement in 2004 that he didn't know how he would have voted on the war resolution," Bill Clinton said.
"It disproves the argument that he was always against it and everybody else was wrong and he was right."
"I said 'So that story is a fairy tale,' and that doesn't have anything to do with my respect for him."
The Clintons have long been highly popular in the black community. But in an interview in The New York Times, Clyburn, the House Democratic Whip, denounced Bill Clinton's "fairy tale" comment and said he saw some remarks by Hillary Clinton as a slight to civil rights activists.
Sharpton, who sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2004, said he would decide soon which candidate he would back.
(Reporting by Claudia Parsons and Thomas Ferraro, Editing by Michelle Nichols and Jackie Frank)