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. ncl

    Anyone who thinks there isn't a racist element in the GOP has been asleep for the past 5 decades!!!! The old yellow dog democrats are still arrive. They have flocked like sheep from the democratic party to the GOP when LBJ did the right thing and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Those who were hesitant to join the party of Lincoln in the early days, were persuaded jump ship by Lee Atwater and Ronald Regan. Now our Southern Brothers have little clout in Washington. Voters in the Northeast and California dictate who is elected president. Once Texas converts from red to blue, it will be the final nail in the coffin. Until then, the South is still waiting for Robert Earl to return from the dead and lead them to victory :-)

    April 13, 2014 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  2. haloguy628

    The desperation is palpable in the ranks of liberal porcine creatures.

    April 13, 2014 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  3. wiley

    Yes, because there are no racist blacks and Hispanics in the democratic party. Nope, it's not even possible to be racist against whites.

    April 13, 2014 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  4. kamal koin

    The unsophisticated human mind lives on. I often dwell in those depths myself. It's wrong but sometimes i feel it's justified when i see and hear slights based on skincolor etc flying in both directions. Latina with a G.E.D looking down on an african american with an MBA. African with nairy a yen in their pocket belittling an asian working hard to feed his family. caucasian pizza delivery teenager being snippy about a well meaning hispanic male offering them a tip. We're just not there yet in the journey to enlightenment. And for the record, some elements in the G.O.P make me sick to my core. "the chosen race being sooooo demented and myopic!" Can't say I'm surprised.

    April 13, 2014 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  5. Vivienne

    To experience racism in my 57 years on Earth from the time as a child witnessing the KKK in white robes distributing pamphlets on the side of the road up until today when a white lady clutches her purse as I enter an elevator . . . it is just so draining, tiring and so very sad. The ignorance of SOME white people . . . is incomprehensible. How sad for them.

    April 13, 2014 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  6. rick

    The Republicans have invented a new racism!
    They now hate anyone that makes $25K or less.
    They hate anyone and everyone of any color. if they vote democrat.
    They hate anyone and every one that calls them out on the 24/7 BS spin they lie about on Fox news.
    Even after the Elections they hate their own Voters, by passing laws that never help 95% of the Republican votes.
    They through a few bones to the abortion and Gun voters, But their real plan is to help the rich, because the rich bought and paid for their votes. They all sit around waiting for Trickle Down to work- but it never does.

    April 13, 2014 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  7. Tarun Goswami

    The Civil Rights movement started in 1964 and the only thing thats changed is that now both Whites and Blacks have become more racists. The race relations have gone south in a hurry. As a real real minority as in the less the 1% of population, I see that there is no real dialogue on racism today. Today Racism is portrayed as something between whites and blacks. This outdated view needs to go.

    April 13, 2014 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  8. hinchlnt

    Somebody mentioned Nixon's attorney general John Mitchell as having been mistreated just as much as Eric Holder. Nothing could be further from the truth. John Mitchell was heavily involved in the Watergate coverup and ended up in prison, having found guilty of crimes. In Eric Holder's case, his only crime has been increasing unwillingness to go along with Darrell Issa's antics, especially when sharing sensitive material which Issa quickly blabbed to the news media. And as for the 'big bad democrat party' that upheld slavery and encouraged the KKK, it was a different democrat party. The southerners were known as Dixicrats. They all jumped over into the Republican Party after 1964. And so all this nonsense about southern Republicans being smeared while Democrats are guilty of bigotry is a lot of nonsense.

    April 13, 2014 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  9. james

    Yeah, right, says the Democrat whose Party voted NO on the Civil Rights Act, LOVED Sen. Byrd even when he was a leader in the KKK, and by the way, it was the Democrats who invented the KKK!

    April 13, 2014 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  10. BoFo

    I would say the "Democrat base," as CNN would call it, also has "racist elements." Let's see:
    Holder, Sharpton, Jackson, Clyburn, to name just a few.

    April 13, 2014 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  11. SmarterThanILook

    Don't the Democrats get tired of using the race card ever? To hear Holder whine about how he and his boss have been mistreated because they're Black should be beneath him but I guess he hasn't hit his low spot yet. I agree that there is racism still in this country but to say it has been used against Holder and Obama is ridiculous. Their color has helped them way more than hurt them and they should be ashamed for saying anything different.

    April 13, 2014 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  12. LT Jenkins

    Holder only wants an "honest discussion about race, as long as you take his position...so there is nothing "honest" about it. Just like POTUS, he preaches identity politics and victimization...he even says that both he and POTUS (two of the most powerful men in the world) are "victims" of racist white men in congress....Good Lord...how low can this man go?

    April 13, 2014 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  13. Badgerbyte

    As a young Independent I find the Democrats are the ones who are orchestrating and perpetuating this race issue. I've never seen anything from the Republican Party as a whole that rises to this type of shrill insult. STOP with the race card Democrats or you will lose the Independent vote which I think is already lost with the "if you like your plan" lie..

    April 13, 2014 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  14. Abbot

    Democrats... using race to try and win 2014 mid terms. Sheeps will believe what they say.

    April 13, 2014 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  15. Tom in Flagstaff

    As a senior-citizen white male, I have great admiration for President Obama and AG Holder. I cannot think of a single Republican politician about whom I can say the same. The GOP is loaded with weasels and demagogues who have sacrificed the commonweal to keep their jackboots on the President's progressive programs, and thereby, they believe, reclaim White House residency for white males and their patrons at the country's giant corporations. I suggest they begin rehearsing "Madame President."

    April 13, 2014 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  16. Quixote

    Pointing out that the gop has racist elements is like saying fish have gills, or birds have feathers. It is good to point out to repubs occasionally since e fish are unaware of their gills, and birds rarely take note of their feathers.

    April 13, 2014 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  17. Donny

    Of course there are racist in the GOP. How many KKK or Aryan nation members do you think voted for Obama? Obama has been treated horribly and he has not acted lawlessly. How many wars has Obama started based on lies? You expect us to look at Obama as horrible when you sat back and said nothing about Bush and his reign of terror? Yeah, sure. Whatever helps you racist sleep at night.

    April 13, 2014 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  18. John Tonra

    SO the Democrats have no racists? Why do these politicians (both sides) always appeal to the worst in people and have to put the other side down rather than inspire people and address the problems of the country

    April 13, 2014 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  19. Trey

    The contempt of some of the Republican party toward Obama and Holder is obvious. The reality of these men holding their positions has been a source of bother to many – politics aside. Too often the underlying contempt gets in the way of governing us all. A s I often read here when people talked about Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and McConnell each deserved a certain respect because of the positions they held. The same holds true for Obama and Holder and their race DOES trump anything else in the eyes of many,

    Of course Boehner is going to say race is not an issue – he's got to keep the guise of being open to all.

    April 13, 2014 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  20. Charlie

    The only reason race is ever an issue is when minorities begin to lose an argument its the easiest way to deflect.

    April 13, 2014 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  21. Deirdre

    Sorry if the truth hurts. The GOP is racist at its very foundation. The TP is only the neoconservative wackos who turn Christianity into a dirty word. Their views are no more Christian than the nearest Muslim or Buddhist. Their epic failure to "love your neighbor as yourself" says everything. Any difference in skin color, language, religion, sexual orientation, etc. etc. is an excuse to vilify another person. Their leaders fool their minions into following a course of action that should be unacceptable to anyone with knowledge or true belief. Money is their ultimate god. Very sad to see so many fooled into believing such tripe. Also extremely sad to see so much hatred for others. We should know better.

    April 13, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  22. TOPGUN 74

    The Liberals dream for America is to have open borders and allow anyone and everyone seeking a better life to come to America. Just think of all the billions from Africa, billions from Southeast Asia, billions from South America, and billions from the old Soviet States that would flock here all looking for a better life. Just think Liberals can insure there will always be a Liberal lead government just by handing out freebies to all these new citizens. Of course the nation will end up an over populated, polluted, environmentally destroyed, crime infested, poor, and violent hellhole but that doesn't matter to liberals as they were compassionate and let them all in. In the end the Takers will outweigh the Makers by a ratio of 50 to one and there will be no sense to working because the government will take it all to try and appease the Takers.

    April 13, 2014 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  23. Cappii

    Racism will never die so long as politicians and the media keep stirring it up. American is American. Deal with it. As far as Obama and Holder, anything to take attention away from them taking a dump on our Constitution....

    April 13, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  24. mickinmd

    I think it's anti-White racism to call Obama and Holder African-Americans and sweep under the rug their White heritages. They are both mixed-race White-Black for which the descriptive term is "Mulatto," though some consider that a derogatory term today for some reason: apparently pointing out that someone of African has some White blood is bad! Like Chris Rock's reaction when he learned his Y-chromosome is 100% European due to a loving marriage between a white male ancestor and a black female ancestor. Rock's reaction was the white man "raped my ancestor." Pure anti-White racism. All of it.

    April 13, 2014 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  25. Kevin

    Wasn't the late senator Byrd (D) from W. Virginia a former Klansman? I think all groups and races have some racist elements. It just so happens the president is half white and most of the political opposition is white. So it's just possible this is idealogical conflict more than racial.

    April 13, 2014 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
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