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. Anonymous

    The GOP racist? Who would ever have thought? What would surprise me about this article were it to state that they weren't racists!

    April 13, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  2. sharkusg

    I'm so sick of them playing the race card every time they are called out for their incompetence.

    April 13, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  3. Jim Steele

    None of the Obama administration policies actually help the county, but it is because the other side is "racist". What is next? "Your mama . . " What a bunch of incompetent losers!

    April 13, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  4. Patrish

    It doesn't surprise me. Many Americans are concerned they will be a minority and their resumed 'perfect white world' will forever change. I lived in a foreign country were as white woman I was a minority, didn't really bother me. Republicans are full of the good old boy and they never had stood for diversity.

    April 13, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  5. Harsh Realities

    When Dems can't debate the issues they always resort to racism charges.

    April 13, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  6. Tommy Calderon

    Why is this even being questioned? It's blatantly obvious that the Tea Party and their sympathizers have a racist agenda. This has been a characteristic of Republicans for decades. The Republican base has embraced supporting the 1% in the hopes that they will support this "purification" agenda even at the cost of the members of the base losing their "entitlements".

    April 13, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  7. abetterday

    Denial is no longer an option with Republicans. Its a pure and simple truth that their party is rampant with racism. I hear it everyday amongst party members who surround me and its a sad truth.

    April 13, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  8. sharkusg

    I'm so sick of them playing the race card every time they are questioned about their incompetence. Holder is particularly egregious in this regard. And what century is Pelosi in? Where's this mob of Irish immigrants she overheard the Republicans talking to?

    April 13, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  9. Ancient Texan

    Liberals have almost worn out this tired old claim and no one pays any attention to the claims anymore. Anyone that dares to disagree with the liberal agenda is automatically called "racist". The other side of the coin is folks like Eric Holder and Barack Obama using the allegations of racism as both a shield and a offensive sword.......

    April 13, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  10. Mitzymoon

    98% of self-described white supremacists vote Republican.

    April 13, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  11. Rosslaw

    In more breaking news, water runs downhill.

    April 13, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  12. berniethedog1

    Sad, these people (Israel, Obama, Holder, Pelosi etc etc) are just beyond sad!

    April 13, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  13. MIck

    They sure do, as well as homophobes, sexists, people who hate the poor, etc.
    No wonder they keep losing elections, ha ha.

    April 13, 2014 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  14. leo

    If you hate blacks, hispanics – people of color, and gays, you do not vote for liberal bleeding heart Democrats! You vote Republican it is that simple, there is no where else to go!. Now this malignant part of their base is a minority and it does not I believe define the party, but the perception is damning. If you ever want to expand your party, you need to let these people know that they are not welcome, that you do not want their votes. Democrats confronted this ugly truth in their party in the 60s, Republicans need to do the same today.

    April 13, 2014 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  15. Tom

    Coming from a dem, the biggest racists of all, those who would sell this country out for votes. They make citizenship worthless by rewarding parasitic illegal aliens, promising them the moon for their votes.

    April 13, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  16. Mensaman

    If CNN wishes to report a true statement instead of sensational partisan ones, they would report that racism can be found regardless of political party.
    Democrats and Republicans alike have to deal with the issue of racism. Racism also knows all colors and creeds.
    To say one party is more racist than another is incredibly difficult to prove.
    What can be said in America today is that the racial divide is deeper because of the media's and the government's desire to promote it to obtain political and profit outcomes they desire.
    If you want improved racial harmony – ignore race. Forget it. Do not use it as a platform or factor for anything. It sounds counter intuitive but it works. I know this sounds politically incorrect, but it's been tested and found as a natural occurrence in some communities and the improvements in relations are there and undeniable. The problem is, it is not politically advantageous or interesting/profitable to do this.

    April 13, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  17. RickFromTexas

    Meanwhile, out here in the real world, Steve Israel is right. I know a lot of democrats, independents, and republicans and I can honestly say that the percentage of racism is much higher among republicans. That's also true of misogynists (like Todd Akin). And it doesn't seem to matter what part of the country they're from, either, I've lived in the northeast, down south, and in the northwest. Racism seems to be a trait they all have in common.

    It's not even a close call. They can protest all they want but the truth is, I've seen it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears.

    April 13, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  18. A. Nonymous

    Ha! This from the party that opposed the end of slavery, the party of the Dixiecrats, etc., the party that has no faith in the people to take care of themselves and would rather keep them dependent on the government, etc., etc. *smh*

    April 13, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  19. ECONOMYSTIC EXTRAORDINAIRE

    RACSIM!!? From the people who got the president elected with 97% of all eligible BLACK voters.

    April 13, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  20. Michael Wheeler

    Holder and Pelosindo the country a great disservice when they throw out the race card like throwing water at a fire. Just because we disagree with the Obama administration and his policies does not make us racist. Many people believe that Obama and Holder have taken every effort to circumvent the Constitution. I agree with them. It has nothing to do with race.

    April 13, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  21. justme

    So, what is newsworthy about this item?? The same claims have been made for very many years now. It is now apparent that "racism" is NOT exclusively a characteristic of white people. Hateful, venomous and highly destructive expression of racial animus are made by people of all races, colors, creeds, etc. To merely perpetuate the stereotype of "white racism" is be racist. And, of course, to criticize performance is not in itself racism, as it often claimed in political circles these days. There hasn't really been "progress" so much as there has been a changing of names and power. So sad.

    April 13, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  22. A. C. I.

    From my reading, there is racism flying every which way.

    April 13, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  23. ja

    The racist snake has been resurrected, under guise of reverse discrimination, Christian conservatives, tea party, the same groups are guilty of gross indiscretions

    April 13, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  24. D Egan

    A very large segment of the Democrat Party, most notably its national leadership, is undeniably racist. They are completely obsessed by race, and it pervades everything they do.

    April 13, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  25. KRG

    I am tired of actual acts of racism being discounted by the continued attacks of one political party proclaiming that every disagreement is based in racism. Two political parties will disagree. To hijack an actual problem in our World and use it only as a tool to besmirch a politically opposing party should be a testament to the true character of that individual.

    April 13, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
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