April 13th, 2014
01:07 PM ET
8 months ago

GOP base includes racist 'elements,' congressman charges

(CNN) - Over 50 years after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, the issue of race is back in the political headlines, after comments from Attorney General Eric Holder and events marking the anniversary of the law’s passage renewed the dialogue over race relations in the 21st century.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-New York, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that "not all" of his GOP colleagues are racist but "the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism."

Israel’s comments came in response to a question from CNN's Candy Crowley about Holder’s remarks at a civil rights event last week. During a New York speech, Holder suggested congressional Republicans have treated him and President Barack Obama, as African-Americans, differently from others who have held their positions.

Later, responding to a question about Holder’s remarks, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that House Republicans were blocking action on immigration reform because of racial issues.

"I think race has something to do with the fact that they're not bringing up an immigration bill. I've heard them say to the Irish, if it were just you, this would be easy," the California Democrat said, referring to GOP lawmakers, during her weekly press conference last week.

Rep. Greg Walden, also appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," called Pelosi's comments "both wrong and unfortunate."

In Holder's speech to a progressive group, he strayed from prepared remarks to criticize the way he was treated by Congress, specifically in contentious House Judiciary Committee hearings where he sparred with Republican lawmakers over whether he was being sufficiently responsive to lawmakers’ requests in an ongoing federal gun probe.

Two years ago, Holder became the first sitting Cabinet member to be sanctioned for contempt of Congress. Since then, tensions between the nation's top law enforcement officer and House Republicans have flared over a number of issues.

"What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?" Holder asked at the event last week.

When asked about the attorney general’s comments, House Speaker John Boehner said last week, "There's no issue of race here." He insisted the Obama administration has not been forthcoming in responding to GOP questions on a number of ongoing investigations.

Walden reiterated that sentiment Sunday, arguing "Americans just want to know the truth" about controversies like the IRS alleged targeting of conservative groups and the 2011 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

"They want to know answers. And that's all we're trying to do," he said on CNN about Republican efforts pressing Holder for information.

In his speech last week, Holder did not specifically point to racism as the basis of his treatment by Congress, but he’s also not shied away from talking directly about the issue of race in the past. Holder recently stood by comments he made in 2009 that the United States is a “nation of cowards” on racial issues.

The White House remained relatively quiet about race during Obama’s first term. In the last year, however, the President has spoken out more on race and inequality.

Most recently, Obama praised former President Lyndon Johnson and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act at the law’s 50th anniversary event last week in Austin, Texas.

The landmark measure, signed in 1964, made it illegal to discriminate based on race, outlawing for the first time segregation at lunch counters, on buses, and in other public spots. Obama lauded Johnson's push to end legal segregation as a factor in his own ascension to the White House.

CNN's Deirdre Walsh and Evan Perez contributed to this report.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

soundoff (1,077 Responses)
  1. Dale

    The Democrats split over the choice of a successor to President James Buchanan along Northern and Southern lines; factions of the party provided two separate candidacies for President in the election of 1860, in which the Republican Party gained ascendancy. Southern Democrats, after some delegates followed the lead of the Fire-Eaters by walking out of the Democratic convention at Charleston's Institute Hall in April 1860, and were subsequently joined by those who, once again led by the Fire-Eaters, left the Baltimore Convention the following June when the convention would not adopt a resolution supporting extending slavery into territories whose voters did not want it, nominated the pro-slavery incumbent Vice-President, John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, for President and General Joseph Lane, former Governor of Oregon, for Vice President. The Northern Democrats proceeded to nominate Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois for President and former Governor of Georgia Herschel V. Johnson for Vice-President, while some southern Democrats joined the Constitutional Union Party, backing its nominees (who had both been prominent Whig leaders), former Senator, Speaker of the House, and Secretary of War John Bell of Tennessee for President and the politician, statesman, and educator Edward Everett of Massachusetts for Vice-President. This fracturing of the Democrats led to a Republican victory, and Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States.

    April 13, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  2. Oh Brother

    Your policies don't work...... Look over there that guy is a racist ! Grab your torch and pitchfork ! This rep should look at his own party while he is at it. Both parties have their racists.

    April 13, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  3. Big_D

    The Tea Party was formed on racist hatred. That is the GOP's problem along with their sexist attitudes too. The good news is they are either old reactionaries or future inmates in the party for the most part.

    April 13, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  4. David in FL

    Racism alive and well in the POTUS and the AG, desperate to blame or turn on manufactured distractions while our country is spiraling towards bankruptcy because we the people elected and reelected them joke is on us and the shame.

    April 13, 2014 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  5. Big_D

    Now the southern democrats that became republicans will tell you how the KKK is Democrat. It was democrat, until we passed civil rights, now it is all GOP all day long.

    April 13, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  6. Sue Rarick

    Holder asked what other Attorney General was questioned like him .... Nixon's AG John Mitchell was.

    If the Republicans have racists among them don't forget the racist comments by Democrat Jeremiah Wright.

    It was the Democrats last election that targeted (profiled) people by race.

    Pot meet Kettle.

    April 13, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  7. TK

    the WCRA (white christian racist americans) will never die as long as they can use racism to keep their heads above water and jmoney the sun does not rise

    April 13, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. bspurloc

    nono of course its democrats that are the racists and trumping a war on women...
    after all its ALL red states passing christiant tlaiban edicts of hate towards women and ID"s required to vote to stop the rampant er non existent vote fraud.

    April 13, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  9. liberal disease

    and Obama snuggling with Al Sharpton is not racist?

    April 13, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  10. Peeknuckle

    What other President and Attorney General has acted as lawlessly as Obama and Holder? Their constant cries of racism is nothing more than thinly veiled attempts to draw attention away from their illegal and immoral actions. As far as the GOP being 'racist', it holds no candle to the Democratic party. Liberal Democrats, especially the rich, white, privileged liberal democrats, have expended every ounce of energy to keep minorities poor and in their own enclaves. White liberal democrats hate minorities. Democrats lost the Civil War, lost slavery, lost their terror (aka KKK) campaign, lost their war on civil rights, lost their war on civil rights workers, lost their campaign of bombing churches and little girls, and now, with the help of a few useful idiots, and found a way to keeps minorities from living next to them. There's nothing in the world MORE RACIST than a rich, white, liberal democrat.

    April 13, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  11. Big_D

    The GOP is sexist and racist and the Tea Party is worse and more extreme. I am sad they are a major political party at all. I thought this kind of garbage died when the Southern Democrats left and joined the GOP with their KKK ties. The GOP let the Southern Democrats take over the GOP.

    April 13, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  12. LH

    I often vote Republican..not always.Voted for Clinton.I go with what Dr.Martin Luther King when he said, and I paraphrase."Judge not the color of their skin,but the content of their character." Did he look into the mirror and feel pride for what looked back?As I dont remember him ever taking a handout from government,nor his children.He didn't make excuses...How many can say that now?How many are indebted to the Government for (free Money)that isn't free at all when it costs you your pride.I guess that makes me a racist.Hunh?

    April 13, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  13. tarura

    "you don't want to go there, buddy"

    "Buddy" is not the proper title to address the Congressman, even if he's white.
    This is arrogant, disrespectful and racist. Or a direct threat. Take your pick.

    April 13, 2014 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  14. Paul Anderson

    The two biggest racists in Washington are Obama and Holder.
    Racism is their response to failure, incompetence and criticism.
    If you do not support them, you are a racist!
    Racism is alive and well in America and it starts in the White House.

    April 13, 2014 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  15. Melissa

    Gee, no kidding. Who would have thought. They might as well have "racist" and "sexist" stamped on their foreheads. rofl

    April 13, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  16. akme

    In other news, water is wet.

    April 13, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  17. J R Brown

    If Mr Holder wonders which other AG has been treated like he has, maybe he should try to come up with another AG who authorized the release of automatic weapons to drug cartels that ended up killing American law enforcement personnel...

    just sayin

    maybe it's not your race...maybe it's YOU.

    April 13, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  18. Kev

    Eric Holder and Obama pointing the racist finger? Two words, SGT CROWLEY. Eat crow.

    April 13, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  19. Melissa

    lol, gee who would have thought. rofl.

    April 13, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  20. Bubba

    Today's GOP regularly invokes Ronnie Reagen, but then assumes Racist Positions President Reagen would never have accepted. I miss Ronnie's GOP, who were willing to lose an election or two if America so chose. Today's GOP are bought and paid for Koch Bothers assassins who will do anything, say anything, to serve their wealthy masters. Today's GOP invokes Jesus, but serve the Koch Brothers and all their wealthy friends.

    April 13, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  21. dave

    You have to be totally naive if you could not see a large element of racism in the US. It's widespread, across the Nation, some Southern States have not voted for a democrat since the Civil Rights act, 1964. The immigration reform measure is largely racist, adding to the huge labor/worker surplus, hurting the minority groups, especially Hispanic workers, giving them a huge worker surplus, making sure they will always have low pay, and a much higher unemployment rate than other groups. The best way to keep wages/salaries, benefits down is by the government using the market, the labor market, not the stock market, by making sure there is always a huge labor worker surplus. They can't have slavery, but they can easily get a huge labor/worker surplus by giving amnesty to millions of new workers. Immigration is a easy issue, it's all economic, based upon how many workers we need, since we need no new workers, and will never need new workers, there should be no in migration of new workers. If it should be sympathetic, then immigration should 1st go to new workers who are presently under threat of death or severe harm in their home Countries. There's 9 billion people in the World, most of them live in poor Countries, some terribly oppresive regimes, it should be hard to fill our need for new workers out of that huge pool. The emphasis on Mexican illegal immigrants should be toward the government of Mexico,. it is a democracy, and actions should be taken against Mexico to make them a better Country, making it possible for their citizen to work at home, and have good lives, and not have to flee to the US to try to get better lives. Total emphasis should be placed on Mexican government, to find out, specifically, why we have 1/4 of their workforce here as illegal workers, millions, like a huge onslaught of cheap labor, making it almost impossible for some legal Americans to make a living, causing wages/salaries to be extremely low due to labor surplus, with no possiblity of increases with a market that is totally satuarated with cheap labor. The true racist in this situation are those that promote amnesty, or immigration reform, largely for racist reasons, or to make sure they always have a cheap labor source, wanting the government to provide them with welfare, or, in other words, a continual source of cheap labor so they can pay less, and make more profit, or capitalism, unchecked. Immigration is really just a check on capitalism, much like we have the slavery check, it's illegal to have slaves, or cheap labor, it's a check on capitalism, not laissez faire capitalism. In general the government should not be involved in markets, in this case, the labor market, making sure that there is always a huge labor surplus so that wages/salaries will always be low, and making sure that some groups always have high unemployment.

    April 13, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  22. Offended

    I am a conservative, and I am not racist. The Democrats use inflammatory language, and call Republicans names all the time, and accuse them of "keeping people in chains". What I hate about the Democrats is the demonology of people who study, go to school, get good jobs, and make money. I hate that areas I grew up in that were nice and safe, are now ghetto: filled with both black and white people who don't take care of their surroundings, and have no pride in those areas. This country has lost its discipline, its pride, and its work ethic. People don't skimp and save and put off immediate gratification like people use to. Republicans don't speak to the masses as well as the Democrats. Republicans say to the individual " Work hard and succeed", while Democrats speak to the masses and create a mob mentality that others are holding them down, when no one EVER mentions the bad choices that hold many down themselves. The masses will follow the Democrats, who will continue leading this country to the path of failure it is on now..

    April 13, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  23. bgg

    Obama is a racist.

    April 13, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  24. DH

    If the Repubs were not doing what they are doing there would be no need to "throw" out the race card. It's very obvious to folks with brains !!!!
    No one would have yelled" you lie" to any white president and no one ever did. Stop passing legislation in the red states to suppress the vote then we will stop "throwing out" the race card.

    April 13, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  25. Ariel

    Rep. Steve Israel is a Jew trying to use race again to divide Americans. I am sick by this democrat way to do politics

    April 13, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
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