April 13th, 2014
01:07 PM ET
7 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. geminidb

    Well it goes along with the mentality of not wanting Civil RIghts, Womens rights or Gay Rights. The thinking of the GOP is a Domino effect. They never wanted any social programs like Social Securiy, Welfare, Medicare, etc. They think like the KKK. Close minded Extremists are the GOP of today. They are for War, Corporate Welfare and giving tax breaks to the Rich. They will never get my vote. I was a GOP er years ago and learned the truth. Proud to be an ex Redub, As Hillary said I grew up. Proud Dem now!

    April 13, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  2. ChrisM

    Yes, the GOP does have racist elements and until the GOP starts speaking up Against those elements the GOP will be tied directly to those racist !!!

    April 13, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  3. Mogo

    One problem is that many Americans, not just republicans, seem to be completely unaware of their own preconcieved notions of racial cultures and thus unaware of their own blatant bigotry. I think for anyone following Fox coverage of the Obama administration we should clearly see racism as a gigantic elephant in the room.

    April 13, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  4. Metron

    Black dems are way more racist than anyone.

    April 13, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  5. shehar39

    The last KKK rally was held in Harper's Ferry, WV in 2012.. They were there to support President Obama... don't believe it? google it.. it's a fact

    April 13, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  6. beatle17

    Why is this even an article? The Democrats say that the Republicans are racist. Does anyone think this is about turning the voters before the mid term elections? Just because you don't like how you are being questioned (Holder) does not mean the people asking the questions are racist, they weren't sanctioned for contempt of congress. It is brutal how everything becomes about race any more.

    April 13, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  7. shinyhalo

    I don't think racist is the correct word. Both Democrat and Republican voters are angered when they lose jobs to quotas for: African-americans, latinos, American-Indians, handicapped, women, etc. People are less angered when they lose their jobs to better qualified applicants.

    April 13, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  8. Dark Poet

    Funny, name ONE racist comment from a Republican in office the last 10 years? Now I can name a KKK recruiter that was in office in 2010 for the Democrats!

    It is funny how when a DEMOCRAT doesn't get their way they ALWAYS play either the RACE or GAY card.

    Listen... the KKK was made by Democrats. As much as you twist the word "Southern Conservatives" around in the end it was Racially Conservatives that all belonged to the Democrat party. Throwing the word CONSERVATIVE doesn't make them republican.

    That is like saying," Oh well I'm conservative on gas so now I'm a republican!" That is exactly what Democrats have made the uneducated masses believe.

    April 13, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  9. cfd

    So do the liberals and his name is Eric Holder

    April 13, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  10. really?

    Back in the 80's the KKK realized that to get what they wanted they would have to get into politics. Their first attempts failed because their candidates were officially and visibly associated with the Klan. So they got smart and fronted "politicians" with no official Klan association. This was all in the plan. Look at the GOP agenda. Look at the "Tea Party". Whose views do you think they are most aligned? Come on people. It's a no brainer.

    April 13, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  11. Robert Constant

    When at the Democratic National convention of 1948, Democrats moved to allow Black Delegations to be seated at the Convention, Southern White Democrats, led by Strom Thurmond, walked out. These "Dixiecrats" soon joined the Republican Party beginning the Republicans" "Southern Strategy". today the base of the Republican Party is centered in the Old Confederacy where Confederate flags still fly on lawns and bumper stickers.
    It is not an accident that 90% of Blacks do not vote Republican. In fact there are still elements of the KKK active in many rural areas of America that are Republican strongholds. I have personally encountered some of these people.
    Sad but true. Within the Republican Base there is a racist element. If you listen to talk radio this will become evident in a few minutes.

    April 13, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  12. Polo

    It is the element of the elephant in the room! The GOP represents the vast majority of racist voters and they know it. The democrats know it. The democrats should make this a central issue in many policy and reform areas. As a white man from the south and a regular country club golfer I can say without hesitation that rich white people do not "like" having a black President and Attorney General!

    April 13, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  13. TXMAN

    Criticizing the job performance of the AG does not make one a racist. It simply means people think you have not done a very good job. Democrats had no problem criticizing the AG of George Bush, Alberto Gonzales, who was Hispanic. You know how you can tell when you have struck the nerve of a Democratic politician, they call you racist because they cannot argue the facts, so they deflect to make the argument about something other than the actual issue.

    April 13, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  14. callinfiresupport

    when all else fails.....play the race card :-)

    April 13, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  15. Dave

    The Democrat party has racist elements as well. Tit for tat. Now what?

    April 13, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  16. longtooth

    The republicans could not play the race card if it were not for affirmative action, which took the idea of equality, (which no one can argue with ), and turned centuries of racism into a whip to use on white people who had never discriminated against anyone.

    April 13, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  17. Arden330

    So true, but who dares to admit it?!

    April 13, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  18. michael gilbert

    so I wonder if they will play the race card. What does that make of republicans who are not racist. Should we bring the deficit up to $100 trillion to prove that we are not a racist country?

    April 13, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  19. srcactus

    Lincoln was a?
    The senate that passed the civil rights act was ?
    The party that filibustered. against the Civil Rights Act was
    The lobby targeting Condolizza Rices is?
    Pure politics.from one that brought us Obamacare.

    April 13, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  20. GIUK

    The GOP doesn't have racists in it. The GOP just contains people who hate anyone who isn't white. Please, let's be accurate.

    April 13, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  21. chaitea2

    It's true – there are too many scared racists and misogynists in that party – many people of color and women vote democrat of independant because they have met real racists who vote republican – now almost all of the southern racists democrats have switched parties or died – it is almost solely a republican issue the worst elements are in the tea party part of the republicans – if decent republicans want to sway voters to their side – I suggest they tell the tea partiers to establish their own party and not give money to tea party candidates anymore.

    April 13, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  22. WestsacVoice

    I can see it as Republicans represent the establishment and conservative principles. Increased immigration and changing the very makeup of the electorate threatens them. If it were 100 years ago, the conservatives of the day would have objected to Irish immigrants. This issue is not specific to any specific race or culture/ethnic origin. It has more to do with the changes from "majority" to "minority" as advantages and power shift from one to another.

    A group feels threatened and will act more defensively or less friendly when they feel threatened.

    April 13, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  23. Rachel

    Well according to democrats everyone who disagrees with them or the president is a racist. What a joke.

    April 13, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  24. tarura

    Not a smigeon of race issue

    April 13, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  25. MIke C

    Hmm. Let's see it is Holder and Obama who stir the pot about racism and now GOP are the racists? Uh huh.

    April 13, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
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