April 13th, 2014
01:07 PM ET
6 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. Jack

    The right has always been racist! Just look at the signs at teabag rallys. They promote racism on, rush blimpo, hannity, beck shows. Their writers are racist! I could name 25 writers and 2000 websites. I don't see any racism on the left. They are 100% accurate to make claims. The right blames Obama for eveything and holder gets attacked without just cause.
    Any one with a brain sees the hate, racism and bigotry the right throws obama's way every day and the man never says a word, holder either. They have class, the right has Ted Nugent!!! lol

    April 14, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  2. Jez

    The GOP has racist elements?? Whoa! Now this is news! (sarcasm)

    April 14, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  3. DG

    I know how it works.
    The liberal communist mindset is quite easy to see, it's called divide and conquer, pit one group against the other to further their cause and they will use race or wealth or anything else for that purpose to advance their agenda. Today, the black community is in total chaos from drug dependency, out of wedlock births, drive-bys and gang violence. Poverty and unemployment is through the roof and the filthy liberal knows it is destructive and they have no intention of changing it, in fact they want to make it worse. Why would anybody support a party that gleefully supports such disastrous policies of self destruction? 25% of young black men are either in prison or awaiting sentencing and the number one cause of death for young black men is another young black male. Does this sound like progress to you? Of course it does, the Democrat Party has 98% of the black vote and that is all that matters.

    April 14, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  4. blakenaustin

    CNN and the far left media loves to play the race baiting game. They need to be held accountable for their behavior.

    April 14, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  5. JJR

    With Hillary in the wings......the new word will be sexist.

    April 14, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  6. Shelli

    Whatever political party you are affiliated with, if you are racist, you are racist, period. It can be as boring and repetative as you want it to be, but it still exists blatantly.

    April 14, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  7. Gene2

    Yes, the GOP's idea of "big tent" representation means that racists, tea baggers, right-wingnuts, corporations and rich white men are all welcome. All the rest of us can go huddle under the "socialist" tent the Dems pitch. I know which one I'd rather stand beneath, and for.

    April 14, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  8. kelly

    yeah this isn't news. we are all aware of the hate the GOP has for: minorities, the elderly, kids who aren't fetuses, the disabled, vets, homeless, the poor. did i miss anything? oh yeah unions, teachers, anybody who says anything negative about guns. maybe i should just list the things the GOP doesn't hate, that list might be shorter.

    April 14, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. YoonYoungJo

    Gotta defend Boehner a little here. There is a reason this country was founded the way it was. The checks and balances is what keeps everyone honest. What's the difference between a President of the United States that's not answerable to anyone and a despot like Cuba who's answerable no one. Nothing. Still perhaps the President and Atty General Holder wouldn't be so contemptful if the GOP didn't just try and block the changes and reforms this President is doing. I agree this country needs some immigration reform but at the same time you need to be real careful. What if 100,000 Iranians and Afghans all wanted asylum at once? You going to grant it? At the same time the GOP needs to realize the middle class needs help and help in moving a higher percentage of the lower class into the middle class. The wealthy, currently do not need any more favors, tax breaks, etc.. It's the middle class and those hoping to move into the middle class that need the help. This obviously means enacting laws that do not favor the wealthy or laws that hamper the wealthy a little. If both sides could just come together a little more, things could get done and some real progress could be made.

    April 14, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  10. Gene2

    Yes, the GOP has a lot of racists in it. In other news, water is wet.

    April 14, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  11. Al

    Look at Huckabee's audience for his show. Doesn't look at all like the America of today. A sea of white faces. The GOP supporters.

    April 14, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  12. fozz47

    The only people that think the Republican party has elemnts of racism embedded deep in their culture and pscyche are minorities, Democrats, Independants, statisticians, independant voter groups, white people who aren't racists, American born citizens who constantly have their citizenship questions, voters who have to stand in line for 6 hours to vote instead of being able to vote by mail, people who see the color of all the faces at Republican events, and crybabies.

    April 14, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  13. Kristi Wallace

    You know what they say about people in glass houses. This guy should be ashamed of himself, what a blatantly political statement and shame on Candy Crowley for not pointing out some of the racist members of his own party.

    April 14, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  14. Hogan's Goat

    Just own up to it, GOP, and go away. Pretending we are racists for noticing your racism is just sad and I think even the doughboys out in flyover are starting to question it. You Republicans hate black people, it's in everything you say and do, and you might as well just admit it. Remember, you Cruz, you lose.

    April 14, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  15. Big C

    We've all dealt with extreme racists for a long time. They've messed this country up with their blatant racism. but hey you start a country on other races backs this is the outcome....years of turmoil about racism....

    April 14, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  16. Maria Delaluz

    When things look bleak – play the "race card". For crying out loud, people; yes, racism exits. Unfortunately, it's part of this world. But, I see more of a racist in those who play the race card.

    April 14, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  17. Demigod Vadik, CA

    Call them like you see them...

    ...whole Tea Party movement became successful after the racists got involved...cause that brought out the fear and anger older white males had of a black man with power...

    April 14, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  18. DrCole

    Last time I checked, racism was not found in only the GOP, but in a percentage of every cultrue/group, etc in society. To describe it as only a GOP issue is irresponsible.

    April 14, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  19. You Got It

    And CNN goes on airing the "race card" tactics that are so well employed by the Democrats. It certainly would have nothing to do with 5yrs of lying from the President, 5yrs of not enforcing Laws by the AG of the DOJ, etc. It's all racist, don't you know??? What a joke.

    As the Senator stated in the story:
    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.

    April 14, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  20. Sir Longfellow

    "It's racist for you to not allow me to sell guns illegally to terrorist organizations!"

    –Eric Holder

    April 14, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  21. Dwayne

    Eric Holder hit the nail on the head. The Republicans aren't the only ones, the Tea Party was founded on Neo-Nazi principals. President Obama has been the most openly disrespected president in the history of our nation; primarily because he is African American. Anyone who disrespect's him becomes an instant celebrity and is hailed as having courage for standing up for their rights. Everyone from that idiot, Donald Trump, to the former racist co-host of The View, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, have challenged him on issues not related to US policy but on his right to govern based on his ethnicity. His presidency has proved that racism is alive and well and celebrated in the good ole US of A!

    April 14, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  22. Bill Davis

    The GOP racist, say it ain't so.

    April 14, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  23. Really?

    Dem Strategy: The war on women did not work so lets try the race card again. At least we know it will always work for most African Americans who r stuck on our Democrat plantation, bought and paid for with failing schools to keep them poor & uneducated, welfare when the pop out their 70+% out of wedlock kids, free Obamacare, & trickle down govt. scraps. Their slave traders Obama, Holder, Sharpton etc will make sure to keep them in line.

    April 14, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  24. Wes

    Racism. Easy word to label you enemy and avoid debate. Libs have AL Sharpton, and he is as much a racist as anyone

    April 14, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  25. dejavu65

    The Truth hurts but of COURSE the GOP has a racist element, there is a reason why ALL minorities will not continue to vote for them..I laugh when people say blacks only voted for Obama because he is black...thats just the hidden bigotry of a lot of GOP supporters..they know that 90% of blacks have voted for the democrat candidate for the last 40 years....If the GOP would accept the fact that Obama looks different than them after 5 years, they still can't accept it. this country would go a lot further!!....SMH

    April 14, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
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