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. Rememberwhatbushdid

    The GOP is infuriating for many reasons. Not the least is they keep repeating accusations that have been put to rest as fabrications by a wide variety of independent investigations...like the GOP/Fox News claiming Benghazi was a terrorist act covered-up by the administration. Neither is true. And the GOP's claim that the I.R.S. was picking on conservatives when an equal number of Democrats and "liberals" were also the subjects of investigations. The GOP uses the same propaganda tactics as the Germans in the 1930s...."just keep repeating the same lies over and over and over and eventually enough people will believe it.".

    April 14, 2014 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  2. Guest Speaker

    I am curious. How many irate, liberal posters are aware that LBJ and John F. Kennedy as US Senators voted against the Civil Rights Acts of both 1957 and 1960? Eisenhower's original draft of the 57' Civil Rights Act contained a voting rights provision. LBJ stripped the provision from the bill before he permitted a full vote on the Senate floor.........and then his future boss and he still voted against it. I am certain that Eisenhower winning 39% of the African American vote in 1956 did not influence LBJ's decision. Wow, African Americans had voting rights forestalled by nearly eight years, so that JFK could secure the nomination in 1960 from Dixiecrat rainmakers in the good ole Jim Crow South.

    April 14, 2014 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  3. Americans Wakeup

    It's ridiculous to call people racists because they disagree with your policies and anti-constitutional actions/agendas. We're way past the color of skin. We only care about the content of your character and most americans are not liking what Obama and Holder are up to right now. Hiding behind racism is a poor excuse for your immoral and unethical actions.

    April 14, 2014 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  4. Dgw

    Racism comes all colors, from all colors. In most cases claims of racism, to the detriment of real racism, are usually used to cover up, or to hide away the real issues, especially in DC.

    April 14, 2014 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  5. TC

    Once again, the Democratic party is using their personal media outlet CNN to publish their talking points. Racism is ugly wherever it is found. However, politicizing it is no solution.

    April 14, 2014 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  6. Eddie

    The GOP/Republicans in Washington do have elements of racism.

    Here are few examples;

    1. Governor Jan Brewer meets the President and wags her finger inches from his face as if scolding a child..unprecedented in American History.

    2. The Speaker of the House Boehner refused the President a date to address Congress. Unprecedented in American History.

    3. A sitting President has to provide a birth certificate to prove he is a citizen. His Passport, Social Security Number and his Driver License are insufficient..unprecedented in American History

    3. During a State of the Union Speech the President is interrupted and called a liar. Unprecedented in American History.

    4. The Senate Minority leader states that he will not work with the President and his job is to make sure he is a one term President, prior to the President even taking office. Unprecedented in American history

    The above has never been done to or said about a President in American History.

    I wonder what is different about this President than all his predecessors?

    What makes this President so different that disrespecting the President and disrespect the office of the Presidency acceptable?

    I wonder what it could be?

    April 14, 2014 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  7. itsnotwhatyouknow

    That's an earth-shattering revelation; isn't it? Republicans? Racist??? You don't say!!!

    April 14, 2014 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  8. Adam Smith

    GOP includes racist "elements"? That's like calling Hitler a good Christian who, due to his human nature, "occasionally" succumbs to sin.

    April 14, 2014 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  9. thomas paine

    Simeon Adams might be one of the Presidents imaginary sons. Lets ask him if this is the change we wanted.

    April 14, 2014 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  10. Steve Hammill

    The truth is that other presidents and attorney generals were treated rougher: Nixon and Mitchell is a great example.
    Playing the race card like this only points to the fact that these guys are not qualified to hold their offices.

    April 14, 2014 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  11. itsnotwhatyouknow

    In essence, it may be less a case of racism and more a case of continuing narrow-minded blindness and poor judgment on the part of the GOP. I am somewhat grimly amused that, while Walden remarked that Pelosi's comments were wrong and unfortunate, he did not necessarily say they were untruthful, in politicospeak. And season his comments with the usual distract-and-divert commentary: "the people just want to know the truth about the IRS investigations, Benghazi, etc. etc..." We already know that the IRS investigated both conservative AND liberal groups who appeared to be unfairly claiming tax-exempt status. We already know that the Republican-led House cut the funding for overseas embassy security measures, along with a certain amount of failure to follow through on a perceived threat elevation. We also know that the GOP, as a party, and in the persons of their party leaders, have made repeated verbal commitments to block anything this president does, no matter what, no matter how much good it might produce–or should I say especially when it might produce some good?

    Quite frankly, our political parties on the whole need a major house-cleaning. But what continues to digust me it this never-ending finger-pointing, to try and shift blame or shift attention away from one's own failures. To paraphrase someone else whose comment I came across today: when you point the finger of blame at someone, please note that the rest of your fingers are pointing back... at you.

    April 14, 2014 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  12. georgesmith775

    The elephant in the room is the GOP with a its racial bias...it shouldn't be a surprise...Finally we're talking about it!

    April 14, 2014 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  13. YoonYoungJo

    Its sad if race really is still a factor in Washington. Not saying it is or it isn't. Just saying its sad if it is.

    April 14, 2014 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  14. KrustAsi

    In other news,the sky is blue.

    April 14, 2014 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  15. romanlaugh

    So Holder is saying that Republicans would support the policies of the Democratic administration and ignore the IRS scandal and the Libian Embassy fiasco if the president and AG were white?? That's exactly the message I'm getting with Holder's comments. Respect is earned in politics, it's not bestowed by title. Ask George W. Busch how much respect he got in his second term.

    April 14, 2014 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  16. Obasanjou

    This is ridiculous. I normally avoid CNN because it's shown itself to be a shameless puppet of the liberal movement . . . and this "story" just adds fuel to that perception.

    April 14, 2014 02:39 am at 2:39 am |
  17. RD

    If the democrat party pulls out the race card, aren't they guilty of racism? When there was no racism to begin with? What's worse, racism or accusing someone of racism. What will bring this divided country back together?

    April 14, 2014 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  18. Tim

    "Captain Obvious was unavailable for comment."

    April 14, 2014 03:18 am at 3:18 am |
  19. BeverlyNC

    President Obama has been shown the most disrespect of any President ever. I despised George W but I still maintained respect for the office of the President. We had Republican from redneck SC scream "you lie" at President Obama's 1st SOTU. As a candidate, Republicans were so desperate they started the "birther movement". They still have believe the most ignorant of their base believing President Obama is Muslim from Kenya.
    Darrell Issa has spent the last 4 years wasting money and time inventing "scandals" that never turn up anything – just publicity stunts.
    Our nation has become more racist due to the level of hate the Republican Party has spread about anyone and anything that is not white, rich, or a corporation. Degrading the poor, calling the unemployed lazy, stripping education money and then not getting why we have less skilled workers, fear-mongering about immigrants and telling outright lies about the legislation the Democrats want to pass for the benefit of the People and moving our nation forward.
    Republicans want 2 things – more money and more power – and they will cheat to get with voter suppression laws, district gerrymandering, rich oil barons like the Koch brothers spending $10 – $50 M dollars per candidate to try to buy them the election. The Kochs don't even know their names, their policies, their beliefs, their character or leadership skills. None of that matters to them because they just want any Republican who will vote as told.
    Since Republicans have had the House, they have filibustered ALL legislation in the Senate – for jobs, education, infrastructure needs which would have kicked-started our economy, and even help for our Veterans these Republicans sent into Iraq fraudulently and now are abandoning.
    The Republican Party = destruction of our rights as women, workers, voters, and human beings. For all they have done to bring down all efforts for the People and the nation to recover and stay on par with our Allies – they are traitors. To praise a Russian dictator who is a murderer while we are in a dangerous situation with them – is treason. To lie to the People and not keep their oath to serve – so help them God – is treason.
    Republicans are racists, haters, liars, conspiracy theorists, betrayers of the People, and every one of us who cares about having a future, a middle class, jobs that pay a living wage, education for children, SS and Medicare we paid for and finally having national healthcare for all (the last industrialized nation to have it) need to realize how critical this election in November is. Throw out ALL Republicans and let's get to work with leaders who do want legislation to pass for the People and that protects the People and puts corporations in their place, paying taxes, and getting no special treatment.
    It's time for our nation to be again BY and FOR the People. No More Republicans!

    April 14, 2014 03:20 am at 3:20 am |
  20. Dom

    What's wrong? Still trying to shake history? From PBS:

    "After the Civil War, most white Southerners opposed Radical Reconstruction and the Republican Party's support of black civil and political rights. The Democratic Party identified itself as the "white man's party" and demonized the Republican Party as being "Negro dominated," even though whites were in control.

    After all this time........

    April 14, 2014 03:31 am at 3:31 am |
  21. Frank

    Hmmm...the AG and POTUS quickly forgot how CNN ripped through Bush and his AG, but "no" "We are not liked because we are black." What a sad way to attempt to distract peoples attention from the lawless "its not my fault" AG and POTUS we currenntly have. To throw the "Race Card" is pathetic. It was the Demorcatic Party that did not want to end slavery, indeed it was the Republican Party that pushed the tied to end it.

    April 14, 2014 03:35 am at 3:35 am |
  22. adam4x4

    Did the GOP demand answers when the FBI and Immigration were being used to get John Lennon out of the USA because he opposed the Vietnam War? Did they demand real answers when Israel attacked the USS Liberty? What a bunch of hacks. Boehner is a jerk.

    April 14, 2014 03:35 am at 3:35 am |
  23. Carl

    Not all republican are racists but an overwhelming number of racists tent to be republican.

    April 14, 2014 03:59 am at 3:59 am |
  24. Brent

    I will say that there is a problem in this country. I am an Obama Supporter and I am white but I will comment that race is still an issue in this country. A couple of weeks ago I was at a QFC and very tall black person was behind me in line and could see over my shoulder and see where I was entering in my pin number and I moved to block his view and you could tell people thought I was doing that because he was black if he was white I am just protecting my privacy and no one bats an eye but because he was black I was being racist

    April 14, 2014 04:03 am at 4:03 am |
  25. Harald from Nebraska

    Not are the Republican in the Congress bigoted... They are Anti-American, Anti Women, Anti Living Wages, Health care for everyone, AND who nearly led America to a Republican engineered U.S. bankruptcy. I am beginning to be ashamed of being white, I am glad I'm no longer a Republican.

    April 14, 2014 04:10 am at 4:10 am |
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