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. rapierpoint

    plenty of elements in the Democrat base that are animated by racism, too. In fact, some of the most racist people I know are Democrats. (And from the south, too)

    April 14, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  2. MICK

    When liberals run out of ideas they pull the RACE CARD!

    April 14, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  3. AlbaMN

    There is a large element of racism in the base of the far right wing, actual percentages I don't know, but from personal experience most (not all) of the conservative republicans I know are blatant and unapologetic in their racism. And I live in the North!

    April 14, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  4. WhataSurprise

    What!?! When did this happen?!?

    April 14, 2014 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  5. 2016 or bust!

    Only CNN would publish this type of inflamatory biased journalism (aka -"cr*p) intending to inflame moderate dems. CNN – Unfair and biased reporting!

    April 14, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  6. AlbaMN

    You know I am seeing some comments her that there are racists in the Democratic party as well. That is certainly true, there are racists in both parties. It just appears to be much more widespread and institutionalized on the right.

    April 14, 2014 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  7. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    The GOP has racist elements? I am shocked! Shocked, I say!

    April 14, 2014 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  8. Norcalmojo

    The GOP always start their amnesty pushes by calling their voters racists.

    Grab your ankles, GOP voters, here it comes again.

    April 14, 2014 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  9. Guest

    the writer here forgets that the KuKluxKlan came out of the democrat party and to this day is main component. This article is liberal hogwash.

    April 14, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  10. Joe Hates Government

    And, Holder, Obama, Sharpton, Jackson, Farahkan are the biggest racists in America. Pathetic.

    April 14, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  11. Bob Delich, Phd.

    If anyone is a racist it's the entire obama administration .Go get a life you poor excuse for representatives of the greatest country in the world. Using racism as an excuse for a voting agenda and poor performance is a disgrace.

    April 14, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  12. t2vodka

    The only main problem with racism in the United States is that it is all pointed at one people. No one ever talks about racist hispanics, blacks, asians and so on, only whites are racist in these talks, and that is not true. You want to improve your life, then you tackle the problem from all sides, not from one tiny spot.

    April 14, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  13. Mr. Richard Feder

    Fox has done a great job in creating a divide the GOP has to fall into.

    April 14, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  14. Kristine

    Getting close to election time...as if on cue...the democrats starting spewing about how racist the GOP is. Meanwhile, they will continue to spew their misogyny towards conservative women, their racism towards conservative minorities, and their religious bigotry towards Christians.

    Ah yes...the democrats are just so tolerant...as long as you go along with their viewpoint. Otherwise....

    April 14, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  15. Robert N. constant

    One has only to listen to the talk show host who has been dubbed "Mr Republican" to realize that racism is the glue that holds together the "Southern Strategy" of today's GOP

    April 14, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  16. Mr. Richard Feder

    @ Ray: true, racists cross party lines. However, the GOP is making it part of their platform. It has to stop.

    April 14, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  17. RT Colorado

    We're making some progress...not all Republicans are racists...sounds something like....not all Democrats are communists.

    April 14, 2014 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  18. j0eschm0e

    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."
    yeah and the democrats are not? the president is one of the biggest racists !!

    April 14, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  19. Brian

    Pretty predictable responses. The fact remains that none of them addressed the subject, about there being a racist element in part of the GOP. Rather than address it, it's deflect and defend time. A usual sign that the topic hits a nerve.

    Don't accuse a GOPer of being a racist. I'm sure he'll tell you "I have a number of black friends". Doesn't necessarily means he/she see's them as equals.

    April 14, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  20. Harry101

    You know I'm sure there are racist in the GOP but is he also saying that the DNC is free of any racial profiling. That there are no bigots in the party. As sure as I am there are racist in the GOP I am sure there are racist in the DNC. What party in Al Shapton a member of anyway.

    April 14, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  21. Bob Delich, Phd.

    I forgot to add that when people come to this country illegally they should be deported immediately, not rewarded with social welfare. We have immigration laws and the laws don't allow special priority for those that come illegally through our southern border while those that come through New York need to wait 10-12 years through proper channels. We have very sick, sick, sick representatives on both sides of the isle .

    April 14, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  22. TheObserver

    In other news, the Pope is Catholic.

    April 14, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  23. dennis

    Right Said Fred. You can start with Paul Ryan's dog whistle and remember to include Ronald Reagan's use of "Welfare Queens", a ficticious group he famously called out to gain support in the white south. Of course neither were foolish enough to say we should go back to segregation, but you do not have to do that to be racist. There is no innuendo here other than that used by Ryan and Reagan.

    April 14, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  24. Sergeant

    Nothing to see here, we all knew some of them are racist. Not all, but some... maybe most.

    April 14, 2014 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  25. RomneyWho

    Argue all you want, deny, deny and deny, but we know and it's a shame that most of the racist in this country are in a position of power, thus controlling who get's through the virtual revolving door that's now set to swing but one way, their way. :(

    April 14, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
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