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Ferraro steps down from Clinton campaign

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  • NEW: Ferraro says she's "absolutely not" sorry for her controversial remarks
  • Obama calls Ferraro's comments "ridiculous" and "wrong-headed"
  • Ferraro calls Jesse Jackson "radical" in a 1988 Washington Post story
  • Ferraro says her Obama comments were "a statement of fact"
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From Rebecca Sinderbrand
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former congresswoman and vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro is resigning her fundraising position with Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign after controversial comments she made about Clinton's rival, Sen. Barack Obama.

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Comments by former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro are drawing criticism from the Obama campaign.

"I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what is at stake in this campaign," Ferraro wrote in a letter to Clinton.

"The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won't let that happen."

Ferraro told CNN she sent the letter to Clinton Wednesday afternoon.

Ferraro stirred controversy with her recent remarks that Obama's campaign was successful because he was black.

She told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux Wednesday that she was "absolutely not" sorry for her comments.

"I am who I am and I will continue to speak up," she said.

The former congresswoman also criticized the Obama campaign for efforts she characterized as trying to block her First Amendment rights.

Ferraro -- who said she raised about $125,000 for Clinton's campaign -- said she was not asked to step down by Clinton or her staff.

Ferraro added she understands why Clinton distanced herself from her remarks, saying she was "perfectly fine" with that and that there were no hard feelings.

Ferraro told CBS' "The Early Show" that she would not stop raising money for the New York senator's presidential bid.

She also blamed Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, for misinterpreting her remarks.

Ferraro also told ABC's "Good Morning America" that "every time" someone makes a negative comment about Obama, they are accused of racism. Video Watch Ferraro's interview »

Late Tuesday, she told an interviewer that she felt she was being attacked because she was white.

"Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world, you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up," she told the Daily Breeze of Torrance, California. "Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"

In her first interview with the Daily Breeze, published late last week, Ferraro said: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

She also said Clinton had been the victim of a "sexist media."

Obama responded Wednesday to Ferraro's comments, saying "I think that her comments were ... ridiculous. ... I think they were wrong-headed. I think they are not borne out by our history or by the facts."

"The notion that it is a great advantage to me, an African-American named Barack Obama, in pursuit of the presidency I think is not a view that has been commonly shared by the general public," he said during a campaign event at the Chicago History Museum. Video Watch Obama react to Feraro's comments »

"Divisions of race, gender, of region are precisely what has inhibited us from moving effectively forward to solve big problems like health care, energy, the war on terror," he said.

Obama's strategist, Axelrod, called for Clinton to cut ties with the former New York congresswoman, who served on her campaign's finance committee.

Clinton has said she does not agree with Ferraro's remarks.

Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Eleithee told CNN's Sasha Johnson Tuesday evening that "Ms. Ferraro is speaking for herself. We have made clear that we do not agree with her remarks."

This is not the first time Ferraro has made a racially sensitive remark about a black presidential candidate.

In an April 15, 1988, article in The Washington Post, Ferraro is quoted as saying that because of his "radical" views, "if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race."

Former congresswoman Ferraro is the latest Clinton surrogate to launch a firestorm with comments relating to Obama's heritage or ethnicity. Video Watch debate over the handling of Ferraro's comments »

Black leaders sharply criticized Clinton's husband, former President Clinton, for comments he made before the South Carolina primary, including comparing Obama's campaign with Jackson's 1984 run.

Shortly before the Texas primary, 84-year-old Clinton supporter Adelfa Callejo told CBS 11 News in Dallas, Texas, that Obama would have trouble attracting Latino support because he was African-American.

"When blacks had the numbers, they didn't do anything to support us," Callejo said. "They always used our numbers to fulfill their goals and objectives, but they never really supported us, and there's a lot of hard feelings about that. I don't think we're going to get over it anytime soon."

When Clinton was asked whether she would reject and denounce Callejo's remarks, she said, "People get to express their opinions," adding that "a lot of folks have said really unpleasant things about me over the course of this campaign."

Later, her campaign released a statement saying she had been unaware of the substance of the remarks during that interview and both denounced and rejected them.

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Obama has faced his own headaches. Foreign policy adviser Samantha Power ended her connection with his campaign last week after telling a Scottish interviewer that Clinton was a "monster."

Power also made remarks about Obama's Iraq war policy that were used by the Clinton campaign in recent attacks. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux and Matthew Hoye contributed to this report.

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