Apparently the boos that reporters heard when Hillary Clinton took the podium were inaudible from portions of the stage at this afternoon’s SEIU Local 32BJ event at the Manhattan Center on West 34th Street.
"I couldn’t hear it," said Mike Fishman, the president of 32BJ, which has endorsed Clinton.
When asked about the empty seats in the hall, Fishman said that it was "dark out there" looking from the stage and that he couldn’t see the crowd. But he ventured an explanation as to why some members of the audience, which was predominantly African American, might have left early. "We billed this as noon-to-two and people started going to work to get there on time. I found out she was going to be here when we got here."
Kyle Bragg, the union’s vice president and emcee for today’s event, also said he didn’t hear any boos.
"I didn’t hear it," he said. "I don’t believe she heard it either."
Bragg said the back-and-forth between the Clinton campaign and the Obama campaign over Hillary’s remarks about Martin Luther King Jr. and issues of race were a "distraction" from the more important issues of jobs and health care. When asked who he was supporting, Bragg, who is black, said his union was behind Clinton, but that he would “rather not say” what he’s doing personally.
At least one attendee, Pastor Clinton Miller from the Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn, heard the booing and had an explanation for it.
"Many people are in the throes of being excited about Sen. Obama’s campaign," said Miller, who is supporting Obama. "The African-American media has spotlighted the comments that Clinton made about Martin Luther King, how Lyndon Johnson capped off his efforts by passing the civil rights legislation, and that rubbed people the wrong way."
Outside the hall, Lydia Scott, 64, from Brooklyn, said she, too, was vexed by Clinton’s comments about Dr. King.
"She said L.B.J. is the one who got the bill done," said Scott. "She needs to get her history straightened out. And she tried to do that here today."
When asked if Clinton had accomplished that, Scott, who is undecided about who to support, said "no. Once you’ve made the mistake it’s better to just leave it alone and move on."