April 13th, 2014
01:07 PM ET
6 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. hacham14

    There are just as many racists, if not more, in the Democratic base. If Mr. Israel, Obama, and Holder feel they've been treated differently or criticized based on the color of their skin, perhaps they need to look in the mirror and heed Martin Luther King's words that people are judging them not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Also, isn't it racist to assume that someone else is judging you based on race without any evidence?

    Of course, progressives like Obama and Mr. Israel need racism and the race issue to prop up their campaigns and garner votes because if they just ran on the real issues, they wouldn't stand a chance.

    April 14, 2014 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  2. ketjak3025

    The goal of politicos in the R and D parties is to keep us divided along any lines. This is more of that; don't fall for it.

    Also, a healthy discussion about race is over due, and it has nothing to do with whether an R or D follows a person's name.

    April 14, 2014 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  3. John Free

    Only a democrat would say this....no matter how untrue it is, the liberals HAVE TO PULL the race card....Disgusting!

    April 14, 2014 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  4. Dave n CA

    Surprise surprise. It's called the Tea Party.

    April 14, 2014 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  5. Kris Jackson

    I often watch Fox News and read their website. The Comments contain a lot of vitriol against liberals, Democrats, and more than anything else, against Obama himself. Often, the problem these people have with Obama is specifically his race. They use terminology that hasn't been in general use since the 1930's. A lot of conservatives say they are not racist, but they never complain about racists in their midst.

    April 14, 2014 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  6. Raj

    GOP base can scream all they want. Their are HUGE racist elements in GOP. Paul Ryan's comments about inner city is just the latest example. GOPers will deny and scream on this blog or counter that Dems have racist in their party as well. But that does not diminish that GOP party has racist members.

    April 14, 2014 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  7. JJ

    Repukeblicans racist? LOL! Way to go, Captain Obvious! :)

    April 14, 2014 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  8. Selmers

    Right. Because we disagree with a black person who wants to kill the foundation of the country, we're all racist. Shows the brain power of the DNC.

    April 14, 2014 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  9. corpsman

    "The GOP has racist elements..."

    You don't say.

    April 14, 2014 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  10. mrsfudd

    This ma is a blithering idiot. There is racism on both sides. Right now. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson perpetrate racism because it makes them relevant in today's society. Without racism, they would be not be needed or listened to, so they keep it alive by making up all kinds of garbage that is not true. So please – stop already.

    April 14, 2014 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  11. Looper

    Cool! Call these racist GOP pigs out!!

    April 14, 2014 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  12. RWorthington

    Of course none of this is true....Racist in America....never...what would ever give anyone the notion that there is Racist people in America! We can never have an honest conversation about this topic in this country...just reading the post on here proves it....someone just wrote that the President "constant cries of racism"...that just not true!

    April 14, 2014 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  13. wileysee

    There is nothing more racist than a democrat running for office; no matter what color they are.

    April 14, 2014 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  14. Independent

    Republican Party Members, there are elements of your party that spew hatred and intolerance. To deny that would be ignorant, but after reading most of your comments it appears you are just that. Are there any good republicans out there?

    April 14, 2014 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  15. River

    It amazes me how the left continually makes race an issue in this modern day.
    I guess that's all they have to rally support

    April 14, 2014 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  16. JP

    The Fact of the matter is race is country is still a problem. The race card is like a hot potato. Its Honestly the Whites mans problem with the Black man. Racism is one sided. Anyone who thinks that Obama being black does not matter is in denial. Yes there probably are some secrets that the President dont want to reveil to the American people but ALL presidents had those so called secrets or made mistakes that would make people upset. But the way Americans respond to Barack Obama is 10 times more disrespectful than what Bush got and G.W Bush really messed the country up. He was an idiot.

    April 14, 2014 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  17. TruthandConsequence

    Everyone is racist! Blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, American Indians – it does not matter. The question is not whether we promote our own interests, but whether we can all get along together. When 90 percent of blacks vote for the black guy and 70 percent of Hispanics and Asians vote for the amnesty guy, you can't tell me they appreciate all that white legislation and deadly sacrifice which freed them from bondage, passed civil rights laws and provided opportunities for tens of millions of legal immigrants. They want more for their own, they want to put whitie where he cannot pass legislation which benefits whitie – not withstanding his majority in this country and his dominance here for over four hundred years. I get it – but, every race has its measure of racism.

    April 14, 2014 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  18. leydenpat

    I have recently moved to Arizona and I continue to be amazed at many peoples' visceral hatred of Obama..... many try to say its his policies but under all the talk is good old fashioned racism. we will never know if Obama would have been a good president or not because the republicans have done everything in their power to block him from doing anything. If Obama would say that 2 plus 2 equals 4, then the republicans would still disagree with this..... by the way, I am a republican....

    April 14, 2014 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  19. Joe Jones

    In other news, water is wet and the pope is catholic

    April 14, 2014 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  20. Albert Leo

    House Speaker John Boehner said last week, "There's no issue of race here."

    Liar.

    April 14, 2014 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  21. thunder1road

    The GOP corporate hierarchy doesn't care about race and has no religion but they have engineered race and religion politically to a point where they can herd their right-wing voters around like ducks in a pen.

    April 14, 2014 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  22. bill

    If Obama had a son (or 6), I doubt he would come to Indianapolis and claim Simeon Adams as one of them. Photo op in Washington State coming up 22 Apr. Not in real time, he was too busy with the Pope and the Saudis. Bush was an incompetent liar as well so I hope I don't sound racist exposing Obama's double standard. He made it a point to comment on Trayvon and using looks as his basis......why not the accused thugs that create the stereotypical black some whites hate so much?

    April 14, 2014 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  23. Kenman

    I hope that rank and file Democrats will see this shameless, divisive, desperate ploy for what it is! Your leadership is even more morally and intellectually bankrupt than the other party, but YOUR party is willing to further divide the nation along any lines that will keep them in power!

    And here, they're using this divisive tactic to push you to think it's a good thing to give tens of millions of ILLEGALS (from wherever) our precious vote, and work to keep them dependent for generations!

    April 14, 2014 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  24. Anonymous

    So does the democratic party.. Duh no kidding.. Non-story. People need to get over themselves.

    April 14, 2014 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  25. Barraco Barmer

    I cant help but laugh every time someone plays the race card.

    April 14, 2014 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44