April 13th, 2014
01:07 PM ET
8 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. Quixote

    About time to say it out loud. Hw many of your rpublicon associates let some tell tale phrase slip that exhibits in glaring light just how racist their thinking is? Shame is they do not consciously realize it most of the time and get really peeved when it gets pointed out to them. Like when paul ryan was talking about "those people" in the inner city with no moral compass or work ethic......does ANYONE think he was not referring to the imaginary"welfare queens " ronald reagan invoked decades ago? When people challenge President Obamas place of birth or his university credentials, why do you think they might be doing that? He is the first president EVER to have those questions raised, let alone have. A sizable portion of the public BELIEVE such fiction as he is foreign born or got through college because of his skin color. The gop picked u the racists in the 1960s who left the Democratic party once it started championing civil rights for ALL Americans. And the reside in that party to this day.

    April 13, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  2. jlacke

    Let's see...

    We have Eric "My People" Holder, speaking at a conference held by Al "Tawana Brawley" Sharpton, claiming that he and Barack "Typical White Person" Obama are being held back by racists.

    That would be Eric Holder, who dropped voter intimidation charges against NPP members, claiming that it is impossible for blacks to engage in voter intimidation. Obama, who approved of this. Obama, who pals around with black celebrities who support the Black Supremacist 5%ers.and attended a racist black church for 20 years. Al Sharpton, who participated in the framing of white politicians for a rape that never occurred, and has never gone on record admitting any wrong doing, or even claiming to have been honestly mistaken.

    Sure, it's the GOP that's racist.

    April 13, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  3. Name denise wells

    It sure does

    April 13, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  4. OrmondGeorge

    I'm sure thare is a "racist" or two in the Democratic party too, but there is no doubt in my mine that the statements, choices and actions made by any number of Republicans/"Conservatives" have a distinct racist under and overtone.

    Perhaps just as a desire for those aging and dwindling "Old White Men" to hang onto the power that they have luxuriated in since the inception of our Country, but it remains to this day.

    April 13, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  5. sg

    Clearly the tea party and the GOP must take on a large share of the blame for the bigotry and racist hysteria in the nation. The constant lies fomented against the presidency such as the Obama birth certificate nonsense lies, or trying to wrongly associate the president with the muslim faith. All deliberate attempts to distance the president from the people through deliberate lies and deceit. The tea party leaders have spread a constant stream of horrible images of our president online and at their meetings in many racially disturbing contexts such as the monkey, minstrel clown, ape and the like. All well none racist icons of the KKK and the diseased racist past. Now their overt bigoted racist intentions have backfired and they are trying desperately to distance themselves from the allies they sought out so diligently, like the American Neo Nazis, KKK, United Skinheads, White Nationalists, Aryan Alliance all big financial supporters of the racist tea movement. Shame on the tea movement for creating a climate of lies, hatred and deceit. Let us never forget the GOP and the tea party for the wrongs that they have perpetrated, and the massive damage it has done to our proud nation.

    April 13, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  6. MashaSobaka

    Of course the GOP has racist elements. You only need to listen to their leaders talk on the issue of racism – or poverty or healthcare or education or basically anything important – to see it clear as day. Racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, xenophobia...it's all the bread and butter of a GOP campaign. Anyone who doesn't see that is either blind or shares the GOP's bigotry.

    April 13, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  7. bigd9749

    This is news?
    That's like saying the sky is blue

    April 13, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  8. david saint

    What President has ever had his BC questioned, and despite knowing its false still is used as a campaign fund tool? Yes, you read that correct. The citizen that started the birther movement here in AZ has admitted it is in fact REAL, and not only do they know that, but that they just keep the myth going because some will donate to "the cause" still.

    April 13, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  9. jrt1098

    It is a SAD commentary indeed that the FAR LEFT once again begin to trot out the old play book RACE CARD !
    On the very same weekend as the most divisive President in our History, lamely attempts to invoke the legacy of MLK ... and LBJ. Two days before his Attorney General played the RACE CARD ... in attempting to explain why people oppose him ! These two COWARDS ... continue to hide behind RACISM ! Despite the fact that WHITE people helped to elect Pres. Obama !

    NO ... Mr. Holder it's not because your BLACK ... it's because you SUCK !!!
    Obama is beginning to lose his 95% approval rating (which is absurd) because they are now realizing his radical, Far Left agenda could be making it more difficult for America to elect it's NEXT ... Black President !!!

    April 13, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  10. RandyF

    That is obvious.

    April 13, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  11. max

    So True . . . Like Limbow once said, not all Republicans are raciest: however, all raciest are Republican

    April 13, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  12. Eddie

    People and groups are being called " racist " all the time these day.
    Do you want to know what the READ face of racism is ?
    Over 90 % of all Blacks voting for Obama !
    That is pure racism.

    April 13, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  13. Biff Omney

    There's no doubt that the whole birther "issue" was motivated by racism.

    April 13, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  14. MollyBee

    Racist ELEMENTS??? All Americans know that the racist flock to the modern day GOP. Many people who are Republicans are NOT racist per say. However, there remains the fact that many/most Republican leaders stood idly by while the radical white supremacists initiated a most horrible racial war against our first African American President. There were countless opportunities for our GOP leaders in the House and Senate to put an end to or, at least, dampen the ugliness but they chose not to do so. As a close watcher of national politics, I saw only one man rebuke the ugliness and that was John Cain who, during the Presidential campaign, told a crowd that Obama IS a citizen and is NOT a Muslim. It was not what that crowd wanted to hear but John McCain deserves much respect for putting truth before politics. That the entirety of the GOP, with that one exception, failed to call out the extremists on the injustice, lies and conspiracy theories regarding President Obama makes them as guilty as the sign carriers and screamers. History will see it this way and it could possibly be the biggest misstep the Republican Party has ever made.

    April 13, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  15. MeToo

    Wanting to maintain borders and enforce immigration laws is not racist. Democrats are doing everything they can to get more poor people into the country because they need them to maintain their electoral advantages.

    April 13, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  16. MistaRichit

    We can count on many inappropriate remarks here because he decided to speak about the elephant in the room that has not gone away. Anybody who brings up racism today is attacked as being a racist as though it doesn't exist. There are few that are willing to do the work to eliminate the problem.

    April 13, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  17. Xu Xui

    It's not the color, it's the culture!

    April 13, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  18. Me

    Sorry, but it is not racist to enforce the law. The republicans are the only adults in the room that know where this is going. We agreed to amnesty with the provision that laws be enforced back in the 80s. Not we are right back where we started.

    April 13, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  19. Drew

    Let me summarize this...
    Truth: "Some of the Republican base is made of openly racist, homophobic, sexist and snobbish members."
    Republicans: "Benghazi! Benghazi! IRS! Don't forget about Benghazi!"
    ... so there you have it, the Republicans are obviously not the problem in this. They're just fine!

    April 13, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  20. Anthony

    It is better to say that some in the Republican base want to do things to other people without being called racists. It just so happens that other people are usually other races.

    April 13, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  21. JAG

    Most Republicans are not racist.
    But all of the racists I've ever met in my life were Republican.

    April 13, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  22. DATS RACIS

    Those Democrats sure love to do whatever it takes to hide how their party was founded, survived, and continues to exist thanks to racism. Create a voting body, targeted by race, and chain them to the depths of the lower class for life = sure votes. Kepe it up Dems, the public will get it eventually.

    April 13, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  23. Jim Jimson

    Most of the GOP base is rabidly racist.

    April 13, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  24. Spender H

    These charges by Dems are intended to slander all republicans by association with these mythical racist Republicans.

    April 13, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  25. Right wing conservatism is a disease

    I never realized how racist this country is until Obama got elected. It certainly brought the inner white trash out.

    April 13, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
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