The term originates in the 1992 presidential candidacy of Bill Clinton. In an interview published May 13, 1992, the hip-hop MC, author, and political activist Sister Souljah was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, "If Black people kill Black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people? The remark was part of a longer response to the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The quote was later reproduced without the context of the complete interview and resulted in wide criticism from the media.
In June 1992, Clinton responded both to that quote and to something she had said in a music video ("If there are any good white people, I haven't met them") while giving a speech to Jesse Jackson Sr.'s Rainbow Coalition, saying, “If you took the words ‘white’ and ‘black,’ and you reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech.”
Prior to Clinton's appearance, his campaign staff had conducted an intense debate about how far Clinton should go in distancing himself from Jackson, who was unpopular with white and moderate voters. When Souljah was invited to speak at the conference, his advisors saw their chance.
Also in the 2000 campaign for the Republican nomination, Arizona Senator John McCain stated, “Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right.” This was similarly seen as a repudiation of the religious right; columnist Jacob Weisberg called it "a pungent Sister Souljah moment."
During the 2008 United States presidential campaign, Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama had a number of events that were described as Sister Souljah moments. On April 29, in response to a series of provocative statements from his then-Pastor Jeremiah Wright, Obama gave a speech where he distanced himself from Wright and called some of Wright's statements "a bunch of rants that aren't grounded in truth. South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn said of the speech, "This, I think, offers Barack Obama his Sister Souljah moment"; the speech was also described as "more than a Sister Souljah moment" by columnist Maureen Dowd.
On July 8, former Special Counsel to Bill Clinton Lanny Davis called Obama's decision to vote for the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 a "Sister Souljah moment" that showed "that as president he would be more committed to the "solutions" business than to yield to the pressure to prove his ideological purity to his party's base.
On July 10, when civil-rights activist Jesse Jackson was caught by a microphone whispering to a fellow interviewee before a taping of Fox and Friends that Barack Obama was talking down to black people; Washington post columnist Dan Balz called it Obama's Accidental Sister Souljah moment, saying Jackson's public image was of old-style Black politics.