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Carter Walks Back Claim That Obama Critics Are Racist

Former President Carter

Former President Jimmy Carter on Thursday softened his claim that an "overwhelming portion" of criticism toward President Obama is race-based. 

Carter said in an interview that he was only talking about a "fringe element" when he made the controversial remarks two weeks ago. He stood by his original remarks, but argued that they were misinterpreted. 

"I said those that had a personal attack on President Obama as a person, that was tinged with racism," Carter told CNN. "But I recognize that people that disagree with him on health care or the environment, that the vast majority of those are not tinged with racism." 

He added: "I meant exactly what I said. What I actually said, if you look at the transcript, is just what I just repeated to you."

Carter's original remarks came at the height of controversy over Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during Obama's address to Congress last month. Wilson shouted "You lie!" at the president, an act Carter said was "based on racism." 

In an interview with NBC, he offered an even broader assessment. 

"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he is African-American," Carter said at the time. 

Obama later said he doesn't think race is the "overriding issue" among his critics.