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. Rob

    Wow. The Dems can't explain or lie their way out of their terrible handling of things so now the fall back on the race card. Why is it so hard for them to understand that thee people broke our laws. They very laws Congress made. When the elected politicians stop enforcing our laws, it's time they are replaced. As for the race card, that only shows how separate they are

    April 13, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  2. DubyaB

    It's funny how a very large majority of white people can agree that they are in fact, not being racist. While remaining adamant about promoting, following, and obeying people of color in higher positions of leadership and decision making.

    April 13, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  3. AntiChrist

    Really? No way! I just can't believe my ears, oops my eyes. No way. And that Malasian plane was that prejudice too? No way really? Wow. I can't believe my mind. I better change it. Doe!

    April 13, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  4. JakeF

    This thread is truly sad. The comments prove the congressman's assertion.

    The disconnect some of you have is just mind-boggling.

    April 13, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  5. David in RI

    How can there be any question that part of the GOP base (see tea party) is motivated by 19th century race and social views: voter restriction laws, treatment of POTUS and the AG, immigration, gay rights, etc. As an American, it saddens me. Someday, they may look in the mirror and admit it to themselves. Until then, we will have to endure the ignorant, vitriolic references to strawmen who are allegedly ruining "their" country - a country that hasn't existed for centuries.

    April 13, 2014 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  6. Sean T

    Ah yes the liberal go to....the race card. The victim class, racism, classism, and on and on. Such a tired whining mantra.

    Pelosi should be ashamed of herself. But then again I guess we've come to expect a lack of class from someone like her so its not surprising.

    April 13, 2014 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Of course they're racists. Fox, Limbaugh, etc., etc.. Only rednecks need apply is their motto. Like daaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. And money hungry patsies. America is being sold out as a result.

    April 13, 2014 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  8. robertwadehall

    Of course they have racist elements...racism is core to their hateful message, as much as their fake Christianity and gun fixation.

    April 13, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  9. Strategic Bob

    not all conservatives are racist, not by a long shot, but almost all racists are conservative. and all racists are illiberal.

    April 13, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  10. BorisRoberts

    It cuts both ways. Boehner snivels that they just want answers for Benghazi and the IRS thing, but they did get answers, just not the ones they wanted, and the Repubs will keep rehashing it over and over, like the birth certificate and college transcripts. If you say something enough times, over and over, you'll convince yourself anway, but nobody else. On the other hand, when you blame your lack of diplomacy on others racism, the whole damn world is racist, you should probably get used to it. Its not limited to the US.,

    April 13, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  11. Nick

    Same old tired rhetoric from the dishonest and incompetent democrats. The irony of it all is that the most racist congressman are democrats. But who cares? The liberal policies are an abject failure, so instead of having a constructive conversation about it just call the other side racist to distract the idiotic American voting public.

    April 13, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  12. coastlinecascott

    "Congressional Black Caucus" no racism there. lol

    April 13, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  13. Guest

    All the Klan came from the Democratic Party. It's funny how they forget.

    April 13, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  14. Skeptic

    "the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism."

    File this revelation under "Duh!".

    April 13, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  15. George R.

    "GOP base includes racist elements" and "The Pope is Catholic".

    Truly revealing and revelatory news folks.

    April 13, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  16. LABorn

    No kidding, Sherlock!

    April 13, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  17. Rozznitz

    I will never regret voting for my President. I will also never regret considering Conservatives, Baggers and the GOP arrogant, double standard bigots. I am and always have been a hard working, honest person – which guarantees me to be always on my guard for those who think a person like me is weak. I assure you that you are in for a surprise ........my heroes are Ghandi, HH The Dalai Lama, Chardin, Rosa Parks, and all the others who dare to choose, like me, to treat everyone fair and equally.

    April 13, 2014 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  18. Death Before Slavery

    Another race-baiting article.

    April 13, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  19. HowdareYouX0rz

    Holder: "How dare you ask me to take responsibility of my track record, like Benghazi and Fast and Furious, because I'm black!"
    LOL!
    I guess we're just supposed to look the other way, and not be critical, because no black man in power can be questioned about laws being broken under HIS watch, or YOU'RE JUST A racist.
    Nice one.
    Let's be truthful here... all this barking about wanting to be equal is a FRONT! Equality means that all who are black, get to be treated 100% like they're white, and that means, well, no freebees, and requirements that when you apply for a job, you actually have to have skills that better the last applicant! Ooops! Yah, I think most who voted for the POTUS enjoy shouting inequality, but PREFER inequality, for the freebees! How dare someone actually work for their money and shun enabling...that would just make them a racist conservative!

    April 13, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  20. ricco

    all together now. well, duh.

    April 13, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  21. DYLANESQ@msn.com

    Racist...in the Republican Party...how can you suggest such a thing ?

    April 13, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  22. Richad

    I believe if you want something you work for it, not ask me to buy it for you. I believe there are laws of the land you are suppose to follow, if you break them, you go to jail. Guess that makes me racist.

    April 13, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  23. Death Before Slavery

    Holder commits crimes, and then blames racism for our criticism of him. Give me a break.

    April 13, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  24. Klaark

    Truth hurts, doesn't it, conservatives? Probably why the entire GOP has a severe allergy to it. Cue GOP racists calling Dems racist because in their minds, calling the GOP racist = discrimination.

    April 13, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  25. Andrew

    How is this even news? Everyone knows the Republican Party is run by, and largely populated with, scared white people who totally hate blacks and browns. It will always be this way.

    April 13, 2014 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
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