April 13th, 2014
01:07 PM ET
4 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. AC

    what a genius

    April 13, 2014 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  2. lgbarn

    In other news...Water is wet

    April 13, 2014 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  3. neastsider

    The baggers and the gop have always been known as the party of white. Today a very large majority of that base fear they will become the minority. That's why the baggers and the gop covet militias, states rights groups, anti-immigration and anti-equality groups, cessation groups, they promote voter suppression laws, promote desegregation of public schools These aren't small elements of the gop, it's their staple belief they are superior.

    April 13, 2014 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  4. jason ransone

    steve israel is a biased, nasty politician who typifies everything that is wrong i America politics. I have been in meetings with this man where he made comments about Republicans which are just reprehensible. He is the dirtiest partisan on the Democratic side, and they should be careful what they wish for.

    April 13, 2014 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  5. Sarah H

    Racism is indeed alive and well in the base. I used to be a Republican committee person, active in the party. I got to see and hear it first hand and was not happy about it as it went against what I believed in. Nothing I said, or any letters I wrote to the head of the GOP committee, made an iota of difference. There is no room for moderate Republicans in the party any more, so I left it.

    April 13, 2014 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  6. Jim37015

    No pun intended. But the Dems calling the Reps racist or any racist elements is like the pot calling the kettle black. Dems aren't nothing but a bunch of socialist nut jobs. Just ask yourself, are you better today than even when Bush was there????Gas is higher and everything connected to it. Can't even buy a box of .22 anymore off a Walmart shelf because the Dems government is arming itself and trying to disarm the public. Whats that tell you.?

    April 13, 2014 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  7. j williamson

    No Attorney General EVER so persecuted? Ask John Mitchell (under Nixon) who was thrown in jail – and died there (for much less than what these destroyers of the Constitution ever did). And now to keep critics at bay you play the race card? Holder, you are pitiful, pathetic, and embarrassing. Questions?

    April 13, 2014 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  8. Rocinante

    The Democratic base includes socialists.

    April 13, 2014 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  9. joesnopy

    All of you defending the GOP are liars or have no clue or stuck in your own world. The old people in the GOP are the same people you see on video calling King the N word and spitting in his face so you all are jokes.

    April 13, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  10. joesnopy

    Now look at the number GOP. Look at all the non-whites voting for Obama are you joking. We are scare of you. It is that simple. I do not need a poll to determine who are the bigots I see it in everyday life.

    April 13, 2014 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  11. Crampon

    There are racists everywhere to some degree, but most never rise to the level of racism that Holder does. I don't see the GOP prosecuting crimes based on color like Holder does.

    April 13, 2014 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  12. Bubba K

    While I realize that it must be hard for a man in Holder's position of leadership and authority to consider, why would "racism" occur to him as the only reason members of Congress felt it necessary to censure his work? Is it not possible to consider that other people view his achievements in relation to the illegal activity surrounding the F & F episode as a deliberate stalling effort? Or maybe just incompetence? All apart from any racial bias? Two years and no results? Someone needs to be fired regardless of their racial affiliations.

    April 13, 2014 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  13. the pope

    I would like to thank all the GOP commenters on this thread for providing examples of what the article is describing. May white jesus bless you all.

    April 13, 2014 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  14. Walter

    Is that anything like the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel base of the Democrat Party, Steve? Huh? Anything like that?

    April 13, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  15. MIke C

    Well, guess what, it is no different than huge parts of the Democratic party being Anti-Semite and pro-Palestinian. Now I am saying "not all" of his Democratic colleagues are anti-Semite but "the Democrats base does have elements that are animated by Israel."

    April 13, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  16. Kristine

    Liberals are so offensive! I am so tired of being called a racist because I tend to vote for fiscal responsibility. I am tired of being called a racist because I believe you should have to show I.D. to vote. Why is it that liberals think ONLY poor black people don't have I.D.'s?

    Today you need an I.D. to have a bank account, credit card, driver's license, own a home, rent an apartment, work, fly in an airplane, rent a hotel room, cash a check, etc.

    Liberals are NOT doing themselves any favors by calling everyone a racist who doesn't agree with them.

    April 13, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  17. PN

    I find it funny that he would make a comment about the GOP having racists when the DEMS were the authors and the ones who passed almost all of the Jim Crow laws ordering segregation.

    April 13, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  18. harrisonhits2

    @Peeknuckle
    "What other President and Attorney General has acted as lawlessly as Obama and Holder?"

    Bush, Cheney and their gang of neocons. They lied to start an illegal war for the purposes of war profiteering for Halliburton and their other cronies. They are torturers, war criminals, war profiteers and among the most despicable pieces of human filth to ever represent this country. Sending our young people to fight in a war whose sole goal is profit and sacrificing them for the 1% is beyond disgusting.

    April 13, 2014 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  19. Just

    Election time. Politicians lying and telling half truths until November.

    April 13, 2014 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  20. j007bond

    Sometimes we have to open a bill to see what's in it. Sometimes Pelosi has to speak before knowing if it's the truth.

    April 13, 2014 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  21. Jerry Whitcomb

    The Democrats have screwed up every policy, every program, and every foreign policy they have implemented. The ONLY thing they have let to run on is to holler "racism" and "war on women", They have many ignorant Kool-Aid drinkers who will re-tweet their chant. I can't blame them for trying. Hell....it might work considering the makeup of the Democrat party. They sure can't run on Obamacare, energy, jobs, economy, or their absolute failures in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Ukraine.

    April 13, 2014 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  22. ....

    Racism is not a partisan issue. To hear democrats call republicans racist is like the pot calling the kettle black. Spend some time with the union democratic base. They make even moderates blush with their petulant racism.

    April 13, 2014 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  23. amazed

    Bill Blasio is racist to oppose charter schools that serve black and Latino. Does this establish that Democrats are the true racists?

    April 13, 2014 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  24. josh

    I do believe it was the Republicans who fought to free the slaves and then later voted for the civil rights act in spite of heavy opposition from the democrats.

    April 13, 2014 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  25. James

    Perfect!!! a series of obviously wacko extreme conservative right wing comments participating in racist name calling railing mostly against the POTUS = Timeless – and the proof is on the page. wake up lunkheads!!!

    April 13, 2014 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
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