April 13th, 2014
01:07 PM ET
3 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. Bryan Beus

    The idea that one party is racist while the other is not doesn't fly.

    On the one side (GOP) we have people like the Rep of Colorado who called President Obama a tar baby.

    On the other side we have Obama himself who says things like, 'Oh, she's just a typical white person.'

    The Democrats are so pro-minority they become anti-majority.

    The Republicans are so pro-self-reliance they neglect minorities.

    It's a problem on both sides.

    April 13, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  2. j thomas

    another bad example of bad and unethical politics. those who point blame at others absent proof should be denied an audience and are unworthy of elected office. how many times has nancy pelosi used the N word?

    April 13, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  3. um

    Except the KKK was started by Democrats. Oops.

    April 13, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  4. LT Jenkins

    what insufferable blowhards. Holder especially...he, who wanted to have an "honest discussion about race", which actually means "white politicians can't criticize me or Obama"....total insanity....race baiting, identity politics, the hallmark of the Democratic part...

    April 13, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  5. stopnthink78

    This article is a disgrace. There's just as much racism in the Democratic party, they just get a pass because in their mind only they can throw the race card. Anyone who works or lives in a multi-racial and multi-cultural environment knows this. This type of race-baiting only fans the flames.

    April 13, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  6. Kile

    Not nearly as racist as the Dem base.

    April 13, 2014 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  7. stopnthink78

    This is a disgrace. There's just as much racism in the Democratic party, they just get a pass because in their mind only they can throw the race card. Anyone who lives or works in a multi-racial or multi-cultural environment, and is honest with the situation, knows this. This type of name calling and race-baiting only fans the flames. My boss is black, I'm white, she's sometimes critical of my work. Does that mean she's racist? No, that means sometimes my work sucks.

    April 13, 2014 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  8. truegrit54

    Everybody knows being a Republican is just like doing laundry. You separate the whites from the colors!

    April 13, 2014 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  9. erin

    Republicans HATE it when this is said, but everyone knows that it's true.

    April 13, 2014 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  10. john

    More race division offered up by the democrats. I never thought i would see the day that a sitting president and multiple representatives would openly and blatantly promote race hatred and class warfare, but here we are. They will do anything to promote their agenda, even as it tears the Country apart. Disgusting.

    April 13, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  11. Michael

    The ONLY people who are keeping racism alive are the Democrats!!!

    April 13, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  12. Bigglesworth VonTempv

    "GOP base includes racist 'elements,'" So does the Democrat base...
    What else is new. It is just sad this congressman is fueling racism and dividing his nation, so he can use as a political tool to benefit himself. Shameful

    April 13, 2014 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  13. Tom K

    Sure, if you're wrong and destructive with your policy and rulings . . . just play the race card. And CNN happily plays along. It's dangerous what you are doing CNN. Very dangerous.

    April 13, 2014 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  14. RayNAiken

    Gimme a break. Senator Byrd was a member of the KKK and died a democrat while Obama was president. He should have been kicked out of any party but the democrats needed and wanted him.

    April 13, 2014 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  15. racistcongressman

    "GOP base includes racist 'elements,'" So does the Democrat base.
    What else is new? It is just sad this congressman is fueling racism and dividing his nation, so he can use as a political tool to benefit himself. Shameful comments

    April 13, 2014 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  16. ROFLTheyjustfigureditoutNOW

    lol GOP is so out of touch that they blame others for the backlash of the racism they spew and support as extremists and non patriotic sell outs to the nation of which they claim to love. Racism was supposedly gone pre 2009 , but the obvious bickering, obstructionism, finger pointing, at the cost of purposely trying to tank our nation against the will of the majority of the citizens, they have only proven their true racist nature...

    April 13, 2014 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  17. Jetranger

    Whats the Democratic Liberal Whacko' Nutjobs Got, "Communism and Socialism", mongering by the Left Democratic Libtard Whacko's", their Filled with it, everything they do, everything they say, the way the Libtard Whacko's think, their Philosophy, even their Libtard Lies they tell.

    Democrats = Democratic Liberal Communism & Socialism, its now a known FACT ! , rather they'll Admit to it not, probably not, and attempt to put even more Spin on it, that's what they do, lie, Spin the truth & facts, and lie some more, because their Typical Nutjob Liberal Communists !!!!

    April 13, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  18. Matt

    Yes, they do. And so do Democrats. Next...

    April 13, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  19. otterknow

    Not all republicans are racist, but chances are, if you're a racist, your probably republican. Handout...blah blah, oh, what about Benghazi? Yes faux and fans, it happened...where were you when bush was committing a war crime and winning our enemies massive support in the process with the children of the half million civilians killed becoming the poster boys of anti-america? Oh, yeah, your advertisers needed your babble to continue feeding your base. Hey, lets blame migrant farm workers for taking jobs Americans won't do again? You know, the ones who have to use stolen SS numbers (and pay into a system that will never reward them) so that they can live 20 to an apartment in an effort to send money back home.

    April 13, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  20. Thomas

    Just ask Clarence Thomas about Racism , it's all about the Benjamin's !

    April 13, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  21. Igor

    Love it! Any time the left is scared, they trot out the racism card – the last refuge of scoundrels who can't argue logically for their position, so they do their reflexive personal attacks. Since there's nothing specific at the moment for them to be nervous about – except the contemptible Holder's insulting behavior to congress – I conclude they are panicking about the effect their entire array of failed policies will have on their candidates in the mid-terms.

    April 13, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  22. Gary, Hunt Valley, Md.

    Racism is not doing nearly as well as it has in previous generations, but it is still very much alive, albeit more marginalized and in the shadows in the great US of A. Progress, progress, progress is being made every day in the battle against the largest stain on our great union. To say that Obama is not the target of racism by his enemies is to deny a basic truth in that nasty corner of the ugliness known as politics. When a man wins back-to-back general elections with a majority of the popular vote (hard to pull off for white men), but loses by 2-1 margins in places like Mississippi and Louisiana and Bama and Kentucky, it makes one wonder....that is, those who deny that racists walk among us every day.

    April 13, 2014 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  23. Willllburrrr

    Sad part is, not only is racism alive and well in the U.S., the repubs are getting more and more brazen about it. And usually their response has something along the lines of 'well, what about so and so'... and usually so and so is simply a minority speaking up for themselves... which of course isn't allowed in repub circles apparently. In a way, I'm glad the ultra righties are digging in and getting more misogynist, racist, bigots. It just makes the elections all that much better for the dems, who have a progressive platform we need for 21st century U.S.

    April 13, 2014 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  24. Lindsey

    It is a shame that so many people in this country keep trying to "play the race card" instead of looking at the facts. LH above is right on in his comment on this issue!

    April 13, 2014 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  25. Mr. Hand

    As usual, when the going gets rough, play the race card. It trumps all, and freezes the opposition.

    April 13, 2014 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
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