April 13th, 2014
01:07 PM ET
6 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. Anonymous

    "...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."

    Only thing in the article is DEMagogue, not dialog.

    April 13, 2014 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  2. Zwei Stein

    @liberal disease:

    No more racist than GWB snuggling with Billy Graham.

    April 13, 2014 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  3. TL

    First ignore our constitution, then destroy our healthcare system, then regulate businesses out of existence, then put a larger percentage of our fellow citizens out of work than ever before, then make us a laughing stock on the world stage, and then when questioned why you are doing this to us call us racists...it would be laughable if it wasn't so sad...

    April 13, 2014 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  4. KG

    Typical, typical, typical. An African American gets challenged and he plays the race card. Holder is not disliked because of the color of his skin, he is disliked because he and Obama are trampling on the Constitution. When you compare what Obama and Holder have done with what Nixon did, it makes Nixon look like a saint, which he most certainly was not. Our current POTUS and AG are so obsessed with pushing their agenda that something as trivial as the Constitution can't get in their way. For the record, G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney got the ball rolling post 9/11 but Obama is using the laws those two pushed through Congress against U.S. citizens.

    April 13, 2014 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  5. jamvee1941

    So, let me see if I understand this . . . The Republicans are Racist? That's the same Republican party that fought all those secessionist Rebels in the South in order to overcome slavery. Who, by the way, were wholeheartedly and joyfully, represented by the then DEMOCRAT PARTY. However, now, you proclaim that, AS IF BY MAGIC, those positions have TOTALLY REVERSED. . . I DON'T THINK SO!! You've just "spun" you position so often that nobody should believe you now!

    April 13, 2014 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  6. j007bond

    As usual with the Dem's. and the liberal left, when all else fails, play the RACE CARD!

    April 13, 2014 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  7. ardvrk

    How SHOCKING!

    Not that Republicans are racists, but that it took some people this long to finally get around to figuring it out.

    April 13, 2014 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  8. 9hydra

    Ridiculous. Everyone knows we now live in a post-racial America.

    April 13, 2014 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  9. Chris

    GOP is #1 with racists!

    April 13, 2014 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  10. Bill

    Of course there are racist 'elements' in the GOP. Sexist too. There are also racist and sexist elements in the Democratic Party. Anybody who denies that is delusional.

    April 13, 2014 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  11. Olympic Eagle

    I am shocked! Shocked! There is racism going on in the GOP? Say it isn't so!

    April 13, 2014 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  12. USAFRetired

    I use to be republican, but when I heard my own family use the N word to the describe President and his family, I had enough. The GOP is full of racist!!

    April 13, 2014 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  13. raul

    does it matter corporation are people now and money is speech so .. good luck with any rights what so ever be you black or white hispanic etc. if chineese companies buy up american firms get ready for communism 101. money is the new american citizen we are but cogs now in the machine for a corporation

    April 13, 2014 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  14. Voiceinthewind

    Well Duh? Is anyone surprised? Everyone in America and perhaps the world knows the GOP is a racist organization of people who think they are the elite LOL. The Gop is the 1 percenter group, we all know that. They care about no one but themselves and I can't understand how any person with a heart and a brain and a little common sense could ever vote for a Republicant. They are anti American dream period.

    April 13, 2014 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  15. KMS

    Little known fact: The GOP, with Eisenhower, tried to pass the Civil Rights Act in 1955. It was blocked by the leader of the Senate, Senator Lyndon B Johnson of Texas. Eisenhower was so impressed with the performance of the black troops in World War 2, that it was one of his campaign promises, and they tried quite hard to pass it. The Civil Rights Act COULD have been passed 10 years before it was, but it was BLOCKED by LBJ, just so it could be passed later and the Dems get credit for it. That's how politics really works, and still does. Now, Obama, the Dems, and teh country in general gives LBJ credit for passing the bill to end segregation. Look it up.

    April 13, 2014 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  16. Steve

    There are racist elements on all sides.

    April 13, 2014 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  17. brownbuttonglutton

    The democrat base if full of racist elements.

    April 13, 2014 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  18. j007bond

    Hey, Pelosi, where's the proof!

    April 13, 2014 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  19. tm1946

    Takes a lot of guts for any Democrat to say the Republicans are racists, eric holder is about as big a racist as there is in federal govt. Al Sharpton, is not only a racist but a snitch for the FBI, Oprah has said publically – just need to wait for the old white guys to die, Pelosi said Holder was wrong Republicans hate women like her and Harry Reid is in the pocket of Vegas corps and gets money from Koch associates..... yeah the Republicans are the problem, sure.

    April 13, 2014 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  20. Ken

    Sorry, the Democratic Party gets no pass from me. History has shown the Dems to be as racist or even more so.

    April 13, 2014 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  21. brownbuttonglutton

    Rich white democrats are the most racist people on the planet. They consider minorities their pets.

    April 13, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  22. Liz the First

    It's obvious by their repeated attempts to 'otherize' Obama and disenfranchise every possible minority voter how racist the GOP is, and it's not just 'elements' of the base. that fish stinks from the head down! if Obama was a white guy, does anyone think the rethugs would have done everything in their power to make him a failed president? hate groups blossomed by the hundreds after his first inauguration. saying the GOP is racist is like saying the sun came up this morning.

    April 13, 2014 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  23. j williamson

    Shame on Holder and Obama for playing the race card when others are simply doing then job ("checks and balances") they are charged to do. My God, I'd take Richard Nixon back in a second over this crew which have trashed the Constitution of the United States in bits and pieces – a drop at a time. Attorney General John Mitchell (under Nixon) was thrown in jail – and died there (!) yet this current (pathetic) AG says that "never" has any US Attorney General been subjected to so much awfulness. Really? Are you that stupid or do you simply think all of America is mentally challenged? The vast majority of the Washington press pool is more sickening than Holder – bought and paid for minions.

    April 13, 2014 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  24. HeyHey

    I've met a lot more racist democrats.

    April 13, 2014 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  25. HillClimber

    No one is blocking "immigration reform" on the basis of race. We, and (I mean that I am taking every available action available to me) the American Citizen public-at-large are blocking immigration reform because we demand that immigration reform (that is any effort to do anything other than to effect mass deportation of illegal aliens) not be effected in any manner that fails to rid the United States of illegal aliens. Immigration reform is being blocked on the basis of Citizenship. If you are not an American Citizen, the demand is that you get off my land.

    April 13, 2014 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
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