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. duane - st.pete FL

    Holder playing the race card......clowns all of them. we dont like you cause you cant seem to do the job......black, white, blue or green....Holder, Obama and the like are all over thier heads......and it it showing big time. lol

    April 14, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  2. Hillary

    The GOP cotains racist elements? Ya think?

    April 14, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  3. SeenThisB4

    The DNC has its own cadre of reverse racists who are equally as vile.

    April 14, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  4. john

    The democratic party also has the same element of racist in their party. Those who play the race card to shut people up are as guilty. Black conservatives and women conservatives are constantly being attacked by the left because they do not share the same views. Blacks are called uncle tom if they do not follow in line with liberal blacks, women are called all sorts of names because they do not follow along as sheep. And the left loves to claim they are all about diversity and inclusion? LOL yes as long as it is the same views as theirs.

    April 14, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  5. Logan

    Holder is the racist. He stated when he came to power that he would not prosecute blacks because they had been prosecuted enough in the past. Holder tried to prosecute George Zimmerman for a crime where none existed.

    April 14, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  6. DBRENNER

    hypocrisy abounds at CNN

    April 14, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  7. Sick and fed up

    Liars playing the race card to cover their inept actions, classic.

    April 14, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  8. Brian from DC

    The GOP has racist elements? Well duh!

    April 14, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  9. Mark

    HA HA HA!... That IS funny!... You say like you REALLLLLY only just realized it now!...lol... If you did, you're about
    50 years behind the rest of the population!... I guess you guys really ARE insulated from real life, there in Washington..
    Here's another news flash for ya.... The world is ROUND!.. .Yah, really!... And we landed on the MOON!... I swear!...look it up!... Welcome to the 20th century.. The rest of us are in the 21st century, but we'll wait for you to catch up!... You guys kill me!... LMAO!!!...

    April 14, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  10. billy_bob

    and so does the democratic party – namely the blacks in the democratic party! they are some of the most racist people in america. they HATE whites. so cnn, stop your liberal reporting.....

    April 14, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  11. yntgl

    Dems played the race card? Say it ain't so!

    April 14, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  12. Tea Partier

    I'm sure most of my tea partiers long for the good ole days when life was simpler. A burger was a nickle, Leave it to Beaver was on tv and coloreds were not allowed to use the same facilities. They never say this directly but when you say how great things used to be it makes me wonder

    April 14, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  13. CountryConcerned

    Every individual had has the ability to think independently has a certain degree of racism, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian.

    April 14, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  14. Robert Constant

    Many people do not realize that the KKK, well into the 1920's, targeted not only Blacks but Jews and Catholics as well. Also, the Klan was not limited to the South but was entrenched all over rural America. Late in the 1920's Klan chapters flourished in Nassau and Ulster Counties ( among others) in New York.
    If you listen to your radio talk shows for a while, you will realize many of those people are still around and are being recruited for political reasons. Not ALL Republicans are racist. I(f you listen to talk radio for a while, you may find that hard to believe.

    April 14, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  15. Woody's Hay

    GOP/Teas are the ones flying the flag, not Dems.

    April 14, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  16. ynotblue

    What a shocking revelation. Since we're in a 2 party system it's not hard to figure out which one people with a racial agenda would be choosing. Hint: it's not the one responsible for creating the Civil Rights Act.

    April 14, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  17. Fr33th1nk3r

    Both parties have racism, and plenty of it.

    With Republicans– it is overt. With Dems, it is more covert. To point the race finger at only one party would be dishonest.

    April 14, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  18. rs

    TL

    First ignore our constitution, then destroy our healthcare system, then regulate businesses out of existence, then put a larger percentage of our fellow citizens out of work than ever before, then make us a laughing stock on the world stage, and then when questioned why you are doing this to us call us racists...it would be laughable if it wasn't so sad...
    _____________________________
    What is laughable is that everything you cite is false

    April 14, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  19. john

    "the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism."
    so does the democrat. to say one party is more racist is absurd.

    April 14, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  20. Sean

    Well duh!

    April 14, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  21. learnusa

    You know what? There is racism on BOTH sides. but to say all of the GOP are racist is to say every single member of of the democratic party are also Racist. This is the USA and yes hatred and ignorance is still alive, thankfully it is dying off. Articles like this just lick the flames though. and to those trying to claim Fox news is racist... OPEN YOUR EYES!!! maybe two people on that channel are racist... MAYBE but if you look at MSNBC or CNN you will see SEVERAL BLATENTLY racist people and people think what they have to say is cute and funny say they allow it. The USA needs to grow up. just because someone disagrees with something you are doing and calls you on your faults does NOT mean they are racist. C'mon. do you remember how hard a time we gave to BUSH (both of them) and Clinton (both of them lol) were we racist then too? WAKE UP

    April 14, 2014 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  22. Big_D

    The GOP has racist elements like water has hydrogen and oxygen.

    April 14, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  23. Mike Smith-Really

    As does the Democrat Party, so what is the point of the article? Fingers could be pointed in both directions and the list of racists would be long for both.

    April 14, 2014 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  24. KBNJ

    'They're not treating me nicely because they're racists'
    Maybe. Or maybe because you're NOT DOING YOUR JOB.
    Either way, STOP WHINING AND DO YOUR JOB.

    April 14, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  25. jack2

    Believe me, racists are in both parties but is't a practice of either party. there is and always will be some racists from any color, you can't change what's in some peoples hearts.

    April 14, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
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