April 13th, 2014
01:07 PM ET
5 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. Cwhat'sNew

    It's not news. Everyone knows it. Nobody bothers the offenders, but everyone is offended by your pointing out being offended.

    April 13, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    If the shoe fits...

    April 13, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  3. KJ

    It's quite true... the Repugnant Party is chock full of racists. Witness the indignities foisted upon President Obama... the idiot Congressman shouting "you lie" during a state of the union address... the relentless accusations of illegitimacy of citizenship by the Tea Baggers... and the continuing fishing expeditions for non-issues (IRS, etc.). The Repugnants are a morally bankrupt assemblage of human detritus, soon to join the Whigs on the scrapheap of history. Good riddance.

    April 13, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  4. SM

    LH, your questions aren't what make you racist. What makes you racist is that you seem to think most, if not all, black people are the only people who make excuses, are indebted to the Government, etc. Most black people in this country do feel pride when they look in the mirror, do not have a reason to make an excuse about their circumstances, do not take handouts from the Government and are not indebted to the Government. I'm willing to bet most of the people who those things apply to are white people. Although they may apply to a greater percentage of black people considering the number of black people in this country, they do not apply to all, or even the majority. Nevertheless, you can't ignore that people who get a headstart in races (no pun intended) will most often reach the finish line before those who do have get the same headstart. Considering that black people were brought to this country as slaves around 1860 and the civil rights legiglation is only 50 years old, to say white people had a headstart is an understatement.

    April 13, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  5. smallfry

    I have several questions: Where was Walden and his buddies when it came to Iran Contra? How about Iraq and weapons of mass distruction? What about a CIA active agent being outed? Wasn't a lot of questioning of administration officials when these events occurred.
    The only thing I hate more than people using the race card is when people have to use the race card. The GOP has fostered bigotry amoung the ignorant to gain support for their hideous programs. It seems that perhaps their reasoning is to keep the middle class uneducated so they will fall for the false belief that those who are of a different race are the one's who are holding them back when in fact it is the wealthy who the GOP actually represent.

    April 13, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  6. Steve

    Republicans are angry at these comments, but they're true. Not all Republicans are racists, but almost all racists are Republicans.

    The "Fast and Furious" scandal is nothing compared to Iran-Contra, but Ollie North and Ronald Reagan are conservative heroes.

    April 13, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  7. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    Denial will not take care of the problem. Racism in its ranks is a reality and the GOP will have to deal with it sooner or later, and then, maybe we can rescue the Republican Party I used to know.

    April 13, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  8. Doug

    What group doesn't have a racist "element." I'm sure they are everywhere to some degree.

    April 13, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  9. jib76

    One Texas Repubican explained to me when hate crime legislation was being debated in the Lone Star State that white Texans feared such laws because they hated minorities and we're worried if they injured of killed a minority member that they might get off of assault or manslaughter or murder on resaons of self defense; but then might be convicted of committing a hate crime.

    April 13, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  10. Hillary CLinton

    What difference does it make....????

    April 13, 2014 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  11. jonasmcgreggor

    As if the left doesn't discriminate against white males.

    April 13, 2014 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  12. Kris

    David in FLA: I guess we all must have missed you back when republicans wanted two wars on countries that didn't attack us. You remember, the wars that were supposed to be self-financing, but went on credit cards for this president to pay.

    April 13, 2014 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  13. Courtney

    Racism is a BLACK problem. I work all day with people from all over the world including Africa. Only African-Americans seem so dominated by racism.

    April 13, 2014 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    No really? The GOP/teaparty have racist elementst? Now there's an understatment.

    April 13, 2014 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  15. woodie

    I must admit the viciousness of the attacks on Obama are beyond what I would call 'normal' politics. This congress is paralyzed by right wing fear of the 'black man' in the white house.

    April 13, 2014 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  16. Rob

    Unbeilievable!

    Does this site/company really nee to use that card?

    April 13, 2014 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  17. Joseph Brown

    In the news today, it turns out that Republicans don't like anyone who isn't white. For that matter, they don't like anyone that's Anglican.

    But wait – didn't we already know this?!

    April 13, 2014 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  18. PROUD REPUBLICAN, NOT RACIST

    It's funny really. They can't get their way, so they find an excuse. "It's _______________" (fill in any blank-racist, homophobic, etc.). The reason Holder and the president get treated the way they do is because they are ignoring the constitution, they are breaking laws, they are finding ways to destroy the United States of America-not because of color. Sheesh. Quit the blame game and man up. Do your job-and represent those who elected you-ALL OF THEM. Or, keep on blaming others for your inability. It's your choice.

    April 13, 2014 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  19. fred

    GOP? Racist elements? That's impossible, they would never let the "new Black Panther Party, CAIR, Rainbow coalition, AL Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Obama, Holder, the Congressional BLACK caucus and every two bit "Community Activist" in the GOP

    April 13, 2014 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  20. Jeff

    Ahhhh........race baiting is alive and well. How else can the Democratic party continue to get 95% of the black vote? Make all blacks feel like mean white people are out to get them.

    April 13, 2014 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  21. Al_Satan

    So says the Democrat! The majority of the racist I know that go around calling blacks N's are democrats.

    April 13, 2014 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  22. Robert Constant

    The KKK is racist. It is also Republican, concentrated in the Old Confederacy and in rural Republican areas in the rest of the Country. These are the people who yell about States Rights so the federal Government cannot control their racism. These are your Second Amendment rights extremists whose insecurities and fears drive them to feel they need weapons. Here is your American Tea Party base

    this

    republican, concentrated in the old Confederacy and in traditionally Republican rural areas in the rest of the country.

    April 13, 2014 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  23. Rob

    When you can't win the debate of ideas, you call your opponents names.

    Pathetic, but I'd expect nothing less from Rep. Israel.

    April 13, 2014 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  24. DAB

    Are you kidding me? The democrats are the most racist and divisive. In addition we have a president and AG who believe they are above the law.

    April 14, 2014 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  25. Mark Smith

    This is common knowledge...put hoods on them we are now the divided states of America and the GOP will continue to destroy the country as long as we have Black leadership.

    April 14, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
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