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. Tom

    Wow. Just wow. Racism has nothing to do with the current AG having zero morals. This is the guy that stood by and then after the fact worked the paperwork for a rapist to pay 400K to Pres Clinton for a pardon in the last hours of his presidency. Yeah, I'd really listen to him on any subject relating to morals. Just sickening. Hey AG, people don't like you because you aren't worthy of being liked. Has nothing to do with the color of your skin and everything to do with the content, or lack thereof, of your character.

    April 13, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  2. Wardo22

    What on earth do you expect the Dems to say. This is part of who they are. They cannot stand on their policies so they have to blame others for their policies' problems.

    April 13, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  3. DBRENNER

    What unadulterated hypocrisy. Racism is far more alive a well in the Democratic Party, particularly among the minorities.

    April 13, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  4. Ken

    Something about a Pot and a Kettle.

    April 13, 2014 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  5. Brineybones

    I see that the official DNC playbook and talking points for 2014 are going to be just as distorted and outright fictional as were those used in 2012. Maybe we will not have as many low-information thinkers/voters making it to the polls on a non-presidential election, and the GOP can take back the Senate and remove Harry Reid from the Majority Leader's post before the old blindly partisan curmudgeon ruins the Senate forever.

    April 13, 2014 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  6. dan

    The GOP base does have racist elements, and the people who don't accept it is either because they are in denial, are ignorant or want to actually hide that fact.

    April 13, 2014 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  7. Dywlf

    The democrats are such hypocrites, their racism against white people is the most obvious racism of all. We are not fooled by the white faces in the racist pool of democratic politicians.

    April 13, 2014 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  8. CoolCMo

    Saying there are only "racist elements" is grossly understating the prevalence of racism as a core value to the republican base.

    April 13, 2014 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  9. American Worker

    More labeling, derision, and divisiveness.

    Propaganda for the upcoming elections.

    It's really getting worn out.

    April 13, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  10. action

    I would agree with that, as well as the fact that their are just as many racist elements in the Democratic party.

    April 13, 2014 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  11. Jay Redd

    How sad that this pathetic excuse for an American would accuse people of racism with nothing to back it up. Awful. The Democrats are the bigots and racists not the GOP.

    April 13, 2014 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  12. Suzy Hager

    The Republicans make me ashamed to be an American. I'm white by the way.

    April 13, 2014 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  13. American Worker

    "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.

    What attorney general or president has ever been so dismissive of the 'Rule of Law'?

    The Executive Branch is supposed to the executor of the the Laws from Congress. It's not supposed to cherry pick the ones that fit the Social Doctrine/Religion of those who are in the Executive Branch.

    April 13, 2014 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  14. Brineybones

    WRONG. The vast majority of Republicans are interested only in following the Constitution and keeping government in check and under budget. If that sounds racist to you, YOU have a problem... Get help. I'd wager that the Democrats have more racists among them than does the GOP. Among Dems, you find racists at BOTH ends of the spectrum, Black and White... Don't believe me, then check out the priorities of the DOJ under Holder.

    April 13, 2014 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  15. Austin Powers

    Of course the republicans have racist elements. But so do the democrats otherwise they wouldn't be human. But keep spinning your garbage because you know that you need all the help you can get.

    April 13, 2014 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  16. HenryMiller

    And the Democratic Party is full of socialists—US Senator Bernie Sanders even admits being one. Any group is going to have it's wrong-headed elements.

    April 13, 2014 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  17. Liz

    Is Rep. Isreal a racist? Did you ever notice that the one who points the finger at others is usually the guilty one. Its the democrats that have the plantation politics, and attack people like Justice Thomas, former Sec.of State Rice. They are the racist hypocrites.

    April 13, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  18. Sarah

    Certainly a big chunk of their voter base are.

    April 13, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  19. D Brown

    The original sin of white Americans is they are racist and will never admit it. They continue to deny but everyday they become more exposed to the truth like a addict who refuse to admit they have a problem

    April 13, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  20. Beetlejuice

    They're REALLY scraping for ammunition, aren't they?

    Apparently their quivers are empty, their magazines are spent, and they've got no more pebbles for their slingshots - all that's left is the continual drumbeat of "racism, Racism, RAYCISSSM !!"

    Keep flapping your gums, Deem-O-Cretins. Your desperate attempts to smear conservatives (over half this country's population!) leave me ... un-moved.

    (Dont'cha just LOVE the smell of flop-sweat as we're moving into election season?!?!?)

    April 13, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  21. Paulwisc

    I see some conservatives here have brought out the now-standard "No, you guys are racists!" response to the charges of racism within the GOP. Such a nonsensical reply would be amusing if it weren't so very sad.

    April 13, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  22. lol

    If you look deep enough, you'll find racists within pretty much any group of people. This is nothing new... and the Democrat party is no different.

    April 13, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  23. Jim

    No, YOU'RE racist. Because, Freedom!

    April 13, 2014 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  24. davecu

    Power corrupts.
    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Nothing racist about that.

    April 13, 2014 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  25. Mark

    And I wonder who remembers LBJ's infamous statement about "Having them N-Words voting Democrat for the next 200 years"?

    April 13, 2014 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
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