Hillary defends ‘talkin’ Southern’

GREENVILLE, S.C. - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton took her critics head on today, challenging them for accusing her of adopting a different accent in front of mostly black crowds.

The New York Democrat and 2008 presidential candidate told the nearly 1,000 people packed here into a town hall forum that she rejects pundits who have nicknamed her “Southern Fried Hillary.”

They said after her speech in Selma, Alabama, about civil rights and after a talk last week to a black audience, “It sounded like she was talkin’ Southern,” Mrs. Clinton, 59, explained to the crowd.

During those speeches, she was heard dropping the “g” from some words, like “hard-workin’” and “talkin’,” and even saying “y’all.”

Well, Mrs. Clinton said today, taking on a grin, she lived in Arkansas a third of her life, spent another third in Illinois and the other third on the East Coast.

“I think America is ready for a multilingual president,” she said, to roaring laughter.

Staffers said the light touch was Mrs. Clinton’s idea.

“That was all her,” one of her top press aides told The Washington Times.

The senator opened a wide forum with the joke, then went on with her plans to give all Americans health care, to make the country safe and to get out of Iraq.

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