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. Dennis

    Tea Party + GOP = Racist bigots.

    April 13, 2014 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  2. stopdrinkingthekoolaid

    obstuctionist and communist elements are afoot in the democratic party.

    April 13, 2014 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  3. Daniel

    Lets see, now it is Racist to want to secure the border, remove illegal immigrants regardless of color, and limit low income potential legal immigrants...Check..Racist...

    April 13, 2014 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  4. kendallpeak

    Anyone who opposes the Democrats is a racist. Anyone who opposes the gay agenda is homophobic.

    April 13, 2014 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  5. E..............

    If I am Democrat and I am Black and I am challenged by the GOP .....THEN THEY are RACIST......They need to treat me as special!!!!!!!!!

    April 13, 2014 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  6. mike

    Republicans have a racist wing in their party? Nooooo!

    IN OTHER BREAKING NEWS: Water is wet, grass is green, and Grant is, in fact, buried in Grant's tomb.

    You know the old saying: Not all republicans I know are racists, but all racists I know are Republicans.

    April 13, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  7. Indyswimmer66

    Really? What a surprise.

    April 13, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  8. DK

    So a Democrat says that the GOP has racist elements...sorry, but where is the news here? This is simply politics as usual.

    April 13, 2014 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  9. barb'sbarb

    Racism among the GOP/TP folks? In other news, water is wet.

    April 13, 2014 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  10. Christian

    I personally am extremely proud that our nation elected a black President after our history of slavery and racism. We have turned the corner, and I am pleased to say that no one I know is a racist. In fact, the average white person I know goes out of their way to encourage tolerance in every way. But this is just ridiculous. Could the finger pointing and politically motivated blame game get any worse? It is clear to me that President Obama is so desperate to distract from his own disastrous 2nd term that he is willing to countenance such accusations from his senior level staff. It is pathetic and beneath him. Come on Barack, let's take the conversation back to where it belongs – to the table where we are all equals and no one is casting blame on the other for imagined prejudices just because we have disagreements.

    April 13, 2014 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  11. Pedro

    Are the republican racists? Well, considering that Lincoln freed the slaves I'd say no.
    But these are not Uncle Abe's republicans, are they?
    The are the party of the 1%, which happens to be overwhelmingly white and male.
    I will say one thing, the vast majority of republicans are selfish. Of that I'm sure.

    April 13, 2014 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  12. Tracy Wagner

    This idiot should be removed from office. To say GOP have 'racist' elements is akin to a teenager saying his parents hate him for not giving him everything he wants. If you can't have an even remotely educated discussion and an understanding that differing views come from differing emphasis and priorities, you do NOT deserve to be PAID to govern this country.

    April 13, 2014 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  13. Jim Jimson

    There are racists in both parties. Blacks being racist about whites is just as racist as whites being racist about blacks. Not that you would know that from CNN and other liberal media coverage.

    April 13, 2014 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  14. seafoodwatch

    Any way you look at it, you can't open up a job market to additional population when a job market is weak.

    April 13, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  15. nena

    at least the GOP isn't totally racist as much the democrats are. Holder is wrong, what about the attorney general for Nixon during watergate? John N. Mitchell, he was sent to jail and died in jail. He did mild stuff compared to what Holder is doing.

    April 13, 2014 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  16. Alan Cromwell

    Given that the U.S. is a two-party country, you're going to have all kinds "elements" in both parties. Big deal. Maybe a GOP congressman should get on TV and, say that "not all" of his Democrat colleagues are communists, but "the Democrat base does have elements that are animated by extreme collectivism," e.g., the President and leading members of Democrats in Congress.

    April 13, 2014 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  17. ptny1

    Racist elements they say? All one has to do is go back every day for a month into all the blogs from the flight 370 disappearance to see conservatives come out of the woodwork under the guise of a "screen name" and bash Obama, blacks, every walk of life other than white.

    April 13, 2014 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  18. Roland

    It is hardly exclusive to one party ,democrats havent done much for PoC compared to Republicans.You can even say the Bush administration had more African Americans in top positions then the Obama administration.

    April 13, 2014 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  19. JC

    Democrats have lower IQ than GOP, rep says.

    April 13, 2014 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  20. ohioan

    The GOP has elements of racism? What else is new? How about fear, intolerance, and hate!

    April 13, 2014 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  21. Mike

    "The GOP has racist elements in it!"

    No Duh!

    April 13, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  22. Ryan Collins

    You're the Attorney General of the United States for Pete's sake! And now your gonna snivel and cry racism because people dont approve of your job performance?! Try growing a pair!

    April 13, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  23. dave

    Al Sharpeton is a racist... Oprah is a racist... Obama is a racist... they're not GOP

    April 13, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  24. greg kerr

    I get really upset about the Democrat's tactic of using race as a distraction from the real issues of abuse of power. President Obama was not elected solely by people of color and so-called liberal white folks. A significant percentage of his electoral base in 2008 represented disaffected independents..many of whom, including myself, are white. Unlike many who voted for Barack Obama originally, I did not do so simply BECAUSE HE WAS BLACK , as so many self professed liberals and the vast majority of our black populace did...I did so because I honestly thought at the time that he would bring some fresh air into a failed political system. I was wrong..it turns out he was just slicker and more urbane than his opposition. How I would cherish a leader and a ruling political party who would admit and not hide their faults and remain humble in their success. I don't see that anywhere with any party right now...and people need to take note of the opinions of independents like myself......as we seem to be the only ones left unwilling to be led around by a leash attached to a ring in our nose.

    April 13, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  25. MaryM

    Yes, the GOP does have racist elements . But until the GOP denounces those racist elements, the GOP will always be tied to the Racist.

    April 13, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
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