April 13th, 2014
01:07 PM ET
4 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. Marcus (from...?)

    critical thinking – A little history for you too as well; the 'Dixiecrats' (or the democrats that you are refering to in your post) left the Democrat Party in drones after a certain law was signed 50 years ago... and moved to the Republican Party.
    They are still the same regarding their opinions and positions about race relationships, they just shifted boats (or parties).
    Details, dteials, merely details...

    April 14, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  2. julnor

    Pssst. Some of the democratic supporters are racist, too.

    April 14, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  3. Great snowman

    Interesting that your story didn't bother to quote a single conservative response to the standard "racist" charge. Since Obama was first elected it has impossible to disagree with him without being labelled racist. Pathetic reporting

    April 14, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  4. ZAack

    Interesting that this claim comes from the party (Democrats) that fought a civil war to protect the institution of slavery, institutes segregation, turned fire hoses and attack dogs on black students, was the party of Jim Crow, and was the party of Robert Byrd who was a Grand Dragon in the KKK..... but yea – the Republicans are the racists..... Riiiiiiiiiiiight....
    All this is is propaganda that they hope low information voters will absorb without question.

    April 14, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  5. Duke

    Might want to read " Unfounded Loyalty the Racist History of the Democratic Party documented by
    Wayne Perryman, an inner city minister in Seattle and the author of Unfounded Loyalty, in an editorial circulating on the Internet (Feb. 2004): "History reveals that every piece of racist legislation that was ever passed and every racist terrorist attack that was ever inflicted on African Americans, was initiated by the members of the Democratic Party. From the formation of the Democratic Party in 1792 to the Civil Rights movement of 1960's, Congressional records show the Democrat Party passed no specific laws to help Blacks, every law that they introduced into Congress was designed to hurt blacks in 1894 Repeal Act. The chronicles of history shows that during the past 160 years the Democratic Party legislated Jim Crows laws, Black Codes and a multitude of other laws at the state and federal level to deny African Americans their rights as citizens.

    History reveals that the Republican Party was formed in 1854 to abolish slavery and challenge other racist legislative acts initiated by the Democratic Party.

    Some called it the Civil War, others called it the War Between the States, but to the African Americans at that time, it was the War Between the Democrats and the Republicans over slavery. The Democrats gave their lives to expand it, Republican gave their lives to ban it."

    April 14, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  6. caseyhd

    "

    Close

    "GOP base includes racist 'elements,' congressman charges". Ya think so Captain Obvious?

    April 14, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  7. budshot

    Of course the GOP has racist elements. Particularly in their Tea Party branch. Everyone knows this. About time it's been said by the terrified Democrats in Congress.

    April 14, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  8. Kenman

    Directly form Rep Israel's remark from another section of that same interview on State of the Union AND from the text in another article on THIS site:

    “Well, look, there's a tough climate, no question about it. I won't sugarcoat it, but the climate has changed,” Israel told host Candy Crowley.

    “We're using every tool in our toolbox,” Israel said, including staff in 33 congressional districts."

    April 14, 2014 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  9. Bill

    Holder & Obama have been caught red-handed lying about the government spying.

    But of course if you don't believe him now, you're racist.

    Not a single other Democrat President (*cough* Clinton *cough*) has suffered anything like this (*cough* impeachment *cough*), so I totally agree with Holder that its entirely race based.

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

    give me a break

    April 14, 2014 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  11. TheObserver

    Numbers don't lie people. The 2008 bailout was the biggest transfer of money from public to private hands in American history. Nearly all of the economic recovery since the beginning of the recession has gone to the Top 1%. A few decades ago, corporate tax revenue was more than 1/3 of the total American tax revenue. Currently it's less than 1/10. There are at almost 100 Congresspeople with a family member who is a Federally registered lobbyist. Everybody in this country who is 35 or younger, basically, owes huge amounts of money to companies owned by people that are 55 and over. The younger group has less and less to invest in the stock market and so if the market improves it only helps those who own stock, aka the wealthy. With the ONLY exception being the Top 1%, EVERY AMERICAN owns less and less of a share of the national wealth every single year going back to 1978. Virtually ANY graph or chart which shows American income distribution over time will reveal blatant and obvious disparities.

    So since all the data is right in front of everyone's face and we've seen little reaction from most of America and it's "representative" politicians, I think the important question is this: Will American media be able to continue to convince (what's left of) middle-class Americans that minorities and poor people and gays, etc. are the biggest problem facing our society while the owners and operators of the aforementioned media conglomerates continue to profiteer? If so, for how much longer?

    Thoughts?

    p.s. Is there a better place than U.S. Congress for a wealthy person to network with other wealthy people at this point?

    April 14, 2014 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  12. Spikemanlou

    I agree that the Republican party appears to be racist, yes the tragedy in Libya needs to be answered and in my opinion has been answered numerous times, here is my question though, how come the Republican party wasn't nearly as diligent in its investigation of the weapons of mass destruction that was used as a pretext for invading Iraq or the issue with the CIA and it's questionable interrogation techniques? It appears that it was because it was a white president, just sayin, if the Republican party wants to appear unbiased then maybe they ought to start digging deep into those issues as well.

    April 14, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. Uncle Sam

    You mean to tell me that all people who call themselves liberal, are all the same? They all believe and think exactly the same way. Not so much.

    April 14, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  14. Craig

    "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."

    No, actually, we'd like a House that actually votes on stuff, that debates and openly considers what is best for the American People, and stops playing stupid games...like repeatedly wasting time and money voting to repeal the ACA. We could care less about your invented scandals, and even less than that about the spin you put on everything the administration attempts to do. Your statement only again demonstrates that you have no idea what the American People want, and worse, don't care anyway. This IS, despite your denial, about "that Black Man in the White House" and don't think we don't know that.

    April 14, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  15. DC Johnny

    But the Democrats have no elements inspired by racist antics... is that correct?

    There is one party that is fueled entirely by division and race. There is one party that encourages outrage based on gender and religion. There is one party that propagates hatred and blame between Americans.

    And it's not the obvious one, per the media, celebrities, and most outspoken of elected leaders past and present.

    April 14, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  16. Mark L.

    This is really old news...The GOP and TEA Party radicals are made up of a bunch of racist pigs. As a matter of fact, I would not be the least bit surprised if some of these TEA Party radicals were, at some point, members of a white supremacist organization.

    April 14, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  17. DaveinIL

    On the other hand, it's only fair to acknowledge that some of the Rep's colleagues are not racists.

    April 14, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  18. GatorDude

    Is Black Culture a noun? Is it a sub-culture within a diverse United States? I'm pretty sure it is. I submit to you that the character and behavior of members within that culture determine the adjectives that describe that culture. When the first five stories of every evening newscast don't involve Africa-American criminals, then the brand identity of black will be improved. Accusations of racism generally come from those who refuse to hold a mirror up to their own culture.

    April 14, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  19. oilman

    as compared to all demos

    April 14, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  20. James

    And the Democratic Party doesn't have racist "elements"? More CNN liberal bias.

    April 14, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  21. jboh

    Wasn't the "SouthernStrategy" based on racist backlash to the Civil Rights Act?

    April 14, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  22. Ric

    How many Obama voters voted for him strictly because he's black?...a lot! Racism is not exclusive to one party.

    April 14, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  23. frank

    yes the racist elements are all in the Dem party!

    April 14, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    I would think that anyone who does not like my ideas, and think like me is a racist.

    April 14, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  25. svscnn

    There are racists on both sides of the fence today, but at least they are neatly divided. The anti-white camp on the left, while the anti-color pitch their tents on the right.

    It's kinda like geometry.

    All rectangles (Dems) are not squares (anti-white), but all squares are rectangles.

    And all ovals (GOP) are not circles (anti-color), but all circles are ovals.

    April 14, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
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