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. Chuck

    Typical Govt run Media trashing the conservatives, you know you have more than
    alienated 50% of the US don't you?

    April 14, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  2. TheObserver

    Hold your horses everybody. Let's not make believe the Repubs have a vendetta against Blacks or Mexicans, so long as you're not rich they will legislate against you regardless of your race. Think of them as equal opportunity oppressors.

    April 14, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  3. LMC3

    And the Dems do not have a single racist, bigot or hater among them. Come On! Every political group, religion, ethnic group, and social club has some. And, thank goodness, I have the right to disapprove, ignore or talk back.

    April 14, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  4. Ddtgwt

    This is a coordinated attack to divide people before the next election. Last week Holder, Obama, Pelosie and Israel all used racism for political purposes. Pathetic

    April 14, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  5. Jerry

    Both parties suffer from exactly the same conditions. More so 0-Bama, Hold-her, Reid, Pelosi, etc., etc., etc.

    April 14, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  6. OnTheRoad

    Sorry, but if you feel that there are not die hard Racist in the DEM party, then you truly have a major problem!

    April 14, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  7. Michael Logan

    Steve, between this and your recent "opinion" piece, can we come back to some reality? As a constituent in your district, there are so many issues that to be resolved. Can we focus on those? Streets crumbling, property taxes out of control...need I go on? These issues have nothing to do with racism. They are due to a lack of effort by both parties...here and across the Country. So instead of wasting time talking about perceived issues, please concentrate on the REAL issues. Thank you.

    April 14, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  8. MrComments

    I am pretty liberal. I like Obama, but I'm not fond of a lot of Democrats, and not fond of most Republicans, so there is my bias up front.

    Yes, the GOP has racist elements. Well, so does the Democratic party. I find neither of these things to be a revelation.

    We need to communicate, not be more divisive. Accusations like this from both sides divide.

    The fact that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Al Sharpton have TV/radio shows and loyal followings is just sad.

    April 14, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  9. smitvict

    New Flash. So does the democrat party.

    April 14, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  10. critical thinking

    A little history for our democratic friends. Republicans with the leadership of Abraham Lincoln forced democrats to enact the Emancipation Proclamation. Democrats were afraid if Blacks were given their freedom that Republicans would later grant them, of all things, the right to vote. The history of racism is steeped in the democratic party, not the republican party.

    April 14, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  11. Kenman

    Actually it's the Democrat Party that are the big racists! Using their devoted, dependent base and keeping them stirred up and upset and bitter, while CLAIMING that the billions of dollars they're spending SOMEWHERE is for THEM when all they won't to do is give them just enough to feel satisfied with the Democrats while NEVER raising their stations in life because THAT would allow them to think and do for themselves, and Democrats don't want that!

    Now, the Democrats are claiming the NEW racism, so that they can give our once precious VOTE to tens of millions of ILLEGALS from wherever, so that they don't have to cow tow to blacks all the time but can get generations of NEW dependents that ARE breeding and NOT aborting their children, to become their new, dependent, dependable base for ever!

    April 14, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  12. MickG

    Racists exist in both (all) parties. You are kidding yourselves if you feel otherwise.

    April 14, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  13. bob baden

    The GOP racist? Of course.

    April 14, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  14. AUSTaxpayer

    Racism is the GOP. I am shocked .. shocked I say.
    It's not like the Democratic party has any racists in it. Right?
    Both parties breed their own forms of racism. It is what they use
    to divide the populous, while the Fascist Uniparty maintains control.

    April 14, 2014 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  15. JL

    The race card is getting tiresome. Americans and finally politicians aren't afraid of the slanderous attacks anymore. Better search for a new angle, leftists.

    April 14, 2014 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  16. JLM

    Racist exists in America and to think it doesn't is just uninformed. The South is still very racist and most of the politicians from that area are also. If you doubt it, read the blogs any time President Obama is mentioned.

    April 14, 2014 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  17. cal

    Chuck

    Typical Govt run Media trashing the conservatives, you know you have more than
    alienated 50% of the US don't you?

    Seriously? I mean seriously?

    April 14, 2014 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  18. JLM

    Though I would agree it is not confined to one party or the other, but the GOP tends to harbor more racist tendencies that the Dems in terms of policy and bias.

    April 14, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  19. Peach

    Because one disagrees with Obama's (or Holder's) ideology does NOT make one a RACIST. This president has done nothing but DIVIDE this country even further on race relations.

    April 14, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  20. Chris

    I would expect this is the case for both Democrats and Republicans. In fact that is almost a certainty.

    April 14, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  21. Big_D

    Democrats passed civil rights legislation that some like Rand Paul still decry. This is less than news.

    April 14, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  22. bill birch

    And Harry Reid is a crook enriching his son by forcing a cattle rancher off state land using the federal BLM run by Reid's former staffer so his son could sell the land below market value to a Chinese solar firm in a 5 billion dollar crony capitalism deal by the rich not paying their fair share in an illegal way.
    But you won't read these details on this site.

    April 14, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  23. bobbuck4

    This is such a crock of crap, I am so sick and tired of listening to Pelosi and Reid calling me a racist because I am against their version of immigration reform. If that were true that would not only make me a racist, but most of the people I know. There is a reason why poll after poll shows a majority of people in this country opposing it. The only thing wrong with our immigration policy is lack of enforcement. I have read many articles on this subject and unless the majority of comments are from racist Republicans it is pretty obvious to me what a lot of people think about the Democrats so called reform. The problem is that the Democrats have pretty much high jacked this issue and unless people and I mean the ones that vote for Democrats, myself included sometimes start sending their comments to their representatives in-boxes I am afraid we are going to have 15 million new citizens in the not too distant future. The only way Pelosi and Reid are going to back off is when they are told in no uncertain that the rank and file does not agree with them and will not support their efforts to legalize 15 million illegal aliens. I have said this many times, comments here are good, comments to Washington are better, much better. NJ has a website called “Find Your Legislator” and I am sure all the other states have something like it, so please find it and use it before it’s too late.

    April 14, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  24. KarmaBurns

    They are all reprehensible! The behavior of all in the last 14 years has been ignorant, tyrannical, and delusional. None of those in Washington have a sense of shame, responsibility, nor humility.

    April 14, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  25. Bayley0402

    So some think that republicans are racist. Is this really news to anyone?

    April 14, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
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