April 13th, 2014
01:07 PM ET
3 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. Really?

    LOL. The illegals want the American Dream that don't even exist for our own citizens. JFK said a rising tide lifts all boats. The only boats lifted are the rich thanks to Obama absolute failed policies. Meanwhile the poor and middle class are the ones suffering with higher taxes, cost of living and decrease wages. Would be funny were it not so sad that these r the very people voted for the promise Hope and Change & that this would not happen to them, but yet it did. So now you fools must not blame the Dems for lying to u. Ignore your worsen standard of living, and out of control govt intrusion into your life, simply because the GOP are racists.

    April 14, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. Gauis

    Actually, we know many blacks voted for Obama due to his race. We have numerous numerous videos where blacks and other people claim they voted for him because this was the time for a black man in the White House, or it was time for a new course. We know for sure. Heck, to geet well over 95% of the vote from one racial group, there is statistically no chance it was just a coincidence.

    April 14, 2014 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  3. rr

    Do people know that the White House was built by immigrants?

    April 14, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  4. ChristopherM

    Not all Republicans are racist, but if you encounter a racist, you can almost guarantee that he's Republican.

    April 14, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  5. rayk

    nothing new here, republicans are all racists, dont be fooled by these hypocrites

    April 14, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  6. Syd Chaden

    Republicans should acknowledge this obviously painful admission by a Democrat, with their own observation that :
    Not all Democrats are anti-Constitution, anti-capitalism, anti-freedom of the press, anti-free speech,anti-religion, anti-US Military, anti-patriotism, anti-entrepeneurism, anti-balanced budget, anti-lower taxes, anti-protected US borders and anti-working for a living.

    April 14, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  7. Tim

    Democrats think if youre black youre incapable of taking care of yourself, or even doing something as simple as getting a valid ID, yet they like to claim its the GOP thats racist LOL

    April 14, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  8. mrkhrrs

    As a conservative, allow me to be the first to admit that there is a racist element in the GOP. There is also a racist element in the DNC and every other organization on earth.

    What is important is that we do not allow that small racist element to define the organization or what it stands for.

    April 14, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  9. Cathy

    I'm getting really tired of Nancy Pelosi and her stupid comments but I am even more tired of CNN quoting her as if everything she says is true. What kind a of journalists are working for you? W ay to factually report the news. Way to widen the gulf between citizens. Just put the insinuations and accusations out there as if it were true. I trusted CNN to be a voice of reason but instead you are turning into a slightly upgraded Huffington Post.

    April 14, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  10. Ken

    ChristopherM
    Not all Republicans are racist, but if you encounter a racist, you can almost guarantee that he's Republican.

    Chris, you are certainly a fool.. You mean to tell me there is no racist in any democratic groups that support the Dems? REALLY? You honestly believe that and you are asking other sensible readers to swallow that hogwash? You sir need to cut back on the grape koolaid.. Sheeeeeeesh

    April 14, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  11. Brad

    It's Create Your Own News Story Monday:

    "_______________, rep says"

    April 14, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  12. James

    Remember Dems, when you can't win an argument on merit or logic: play the race card

    April 14, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  13. momof3

    This is the type of planted story that is meant to further divide the people of America, and to make you feel "guilty" for having GOP leanings. Pure bologna. Thought police in full effect.

    April 14, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  14. JohnnyXJC

    rght. and democrats arent?
    what a load. lol. and lets not forget that 95% of black people voted for Obama.. purely because he was black. So the country gets to go the route cities run by blacks have gone..where they vote just because the candidate is black. Head down to the south.. memphis and other 'black run" cities. See how well they are doing. check out the crime. Have a look see how decades of liberal socialism has taken care of cities like detroit. Please. Oh but I guess I forget. Only white people can be racist. silly me. I forgot I dont live in liberal lala land. The place that is all loving..unless you disagree with them.

    April 14, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  15. FFighter46

    Racebait much? Harry Reid – D West Virgina was a card carring member of KKK.. And I just love how Dem's throw the race card around every time someone disagrees with the President. I mean.. Nobody could possible disagree with his politics because they think they are bad. Heck no! It must be because they are racist!

    Listen.. If it makes you feel better to point your finger at the GOP and call them racist then fine.. have at it.. But if Democrats want to see who is really responsible for racisim in this day and age I suggest they take a long hard look in the mirror!

    April 14, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  16. Michael Martin

    This woman nailed it. She is 87 and grew up in the south. I believe her. Here is where she said on page 37 of these posts.

    As an 87 year old white woman born in Tuscaloosa county, Alabama. I watched this racial bigotry all my life. Nothing has changed – the majority with the money, power and social status – mostly white, have not changed. They are still bigoted. They can change political parties and political ideology, but that inbred hatred of others different than they are is still there. What Eric Holder said was the absolute truth. The truth is absolute, it is the same today as it was yesterday and as it will be tomorrow! We SUPPOSEDLY fought the Civil War – American against American to end slavery and discrimination. I know the lose of my ancestors and think to myself – Dear God, what fools we mortals be, and the end did not justify the means. The same things are still going on in our country, the same power hungry, greed and corruption, along with the discrimination against others who they feel are beneath them in social status. Often wonder what these people will do, when the finally meet God and Jesus Christ and find out they might be black. What a waste of human life due to hatred!

    April 14, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  17. jayh

    In other news the Pope wears a funny hat.

    April 14, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  18. Matt

    They do not have racist elements. Racism is one of the primary components of their agenda. I'm not a democrat and I am white middle class middleaged male. I can not trust a thing the republicans say. It is really sad.

    April 14, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  19. kws11

    Wow. How DO they find these amazing gems of journalism? Pretty soon we'll be reading that some democrats are corrupt union bosses! (Maybe not on CNN though)

    April 14, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  20. Robert

    It's a sad day when you can't have a differing opinion without being called a racist. Just when you think the DEMS can't get any lower, they do. It sort of tells you the situation they are facing in November.

    April 14, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  21. jack2

    Each party has their group od racists. You will never get rid of racist feelings totally. Some of those people will always be there and you can't control what they have in their minds. To call a whole party racist is a lie.

    April 14, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  22. GTS58

    The Democratic party accused the GOP of being racist – this has been going on for decades. And the MSM has been along site them pushing that false narrative! If you try to control the expansion of govt. or cut costs – you are a racist. In fact, in the eyes of Democrats, anytime you disagree with them on anything – you are a racist!

    April 14, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  23. M

    really?. the rich got richer under Obama? Right. Under Bush the rich got richer and thanks to Bush, the middle class was destroyed in 2008. It was the largest shift of wealth in history, 2nd only to the Great Depression. Thanks to GOP failed policies during the BUSH era. We are now suffering from those failed policies. And WMD to go to war was a JOKE. Did we find any WMD? Of course not... unless you ask a GOP. According to FOX and GOP, we did find WMD. Its FACT according to the conservatives that there were WMD. But Sadam moved them to another location. Such a convenient lie.

    April 14, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  24. Martus

    Obama mainly won due to historic turn out of AFAms who voted for him because he is black (according to exit polls), and not because of any issues.
    .
    A white man voting for a politician because he is white is racism.
    A black man voting for Obama because he is black is racism as well.
    .
    Democrats never tire of falsely claiming Republicans are the party of racism. Yet they never examine their own higher level of racism and their racist history.
    .
    “These Neg roes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference.”
    - LBJ

    “I'll have those ni**ers voting Democratic for the next 200 years."
    -LBJ, touting his underlying intentions for the "Great Society" programs with two like-minded governors on Air Force One.

    April 14, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  25. JesterJames

    Shocking! There be racists in this here KKK party.

    April 14, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
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