Published April 27, 2007
GREENVILLE, S.C. – Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday she sees her sometimes Southern accent as a virtue.
"I think America is ready for a multilingual president," Clinton said during a campaign stop at a charter school in Greenville, S.C.
The New York senator — who said she's been thinking about critics who've suggested that she tried to put on a fake Southern accent in Selma, Ala. — noted that she's split her life between Arkansas, Illinois and the East Coast.
Clinton added a Southern lilt to her voice last week when addressing a civil rights group in New York City headed by the Rev. Al Sharpton. On Monday, dealing with a microphone glitch at a fundraiser for young donors, she quoted former slave and underground railroad leader Harriet Tubman.
The two episodes prompted some ribbing in the media and hatched more than a few humorous YouTube video clips.
Clinton is a linguistic polyglot — a Chicago native turned New York resident who works in Washington and spent two decades living in Arkansas when her husband, Bill Clinton, was governor.
But observers have long noted her tendency to speak Southern primarily in front of black audiences, as she did with Sharpton last week and at a civil rights commemoration in Selma in March.
All the Democrats are vying for the support of black voters — a crucial constituency especially in the early voting state of South Carolina. In 2004, black voters comprised nearly 50 percent of the state's Democratic primary turnout.