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. GAK

    Its interesting for Walden to say Americans just want the "truth",is it truth according to the GOP or the "truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God"!! IF Issa was after the truth and not grandstanding he would have cut a deal to have his witness who IS protected under the 5th Amendment rights( regardless of what Issa says) to testify. But unfortunately I don't think he really wants the truth to come about 501C4 groups( that is they are NOT what they say they are) and have the IRS change the requirements..Rep. Issa is after headlines to make himself look good and not after the truth I feel..He has found nothing and will get nothing( reminds me of Ken Starr and White Water) Its time for the House to quit wasting time and money on things they KNOW they are!! How much time ad millions of dollars have they wasted on trying to repeal or un fund the ACA?? How about an immigration policy, a jobs bill, campaign reform, Defense spending..Or just pass a budget that the President can sign WITHOUT a lot of garbage they know will be voted down in the Senate. Its no wonder why the GOP has to re-invent itself..If they would listen to the REAL voters and not the Koch brothers( Tea Party,Duh!) perhaps something could get done in a timely fashion..

    April 13, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. Dallas

    The Democratic base includes racist 'elements,'

    April 13, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. ralph rodgers

    It's kinda funny in this day and age after Obama has been elected twice these democrats still bring up race.Remember if you disagree with Obama you must be a racist.. The president makes a speech saying the GOP is making harder for minorities to vote by requiring a ID. I wonder if he realizes you have to had a ID to cash a check or do any kind of official business. Seems like the Dems use the race card when they have no argument..

    April 13, 2014 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  4. Brian

    Okay Ashland-Medford, let's get Walden out!

    April 13, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  5. Bonechips

    This should surprise no one.

    April 13, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  6. spinoneone

    Really, Mr. Israel? If we want to discuss "racist elements" how about the 95% of the African American community that voted twice for Obama? How about the "New Black Panthers" who actively preach White hate? Don't forget that Robert Byrd was a member of the KKK – and a Democrat from West Virginia in the U.S. Senate for 40 years!

    April 13, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  7. 1776usa2016

    The whole GOP platform is: We Hate Obama.

    Really inspiring.

    .

    April 13, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  8. Candlewick

    Race hustling is racism. Therefore, Democrats, including Holder and Obama, are racists.

    April 13, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  9. lrusci

    The Democrats have bigoted racist elements too. Why are Republicans being singled out in this report.

    April 13, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  10. The right wing have lost their damned minds

    It's the truth and their actions speak volumes as to dealing with minorities...I have been seeing it for decades..Finally it is bringing out into light...Thank you Rep. Israel.

    April 13, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  11. Martin

    I am so sick and tired of hearing the word Racist. If you don't agree with somebody today, you must be a Racist.

    April 13, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  12. billbfit

    Must be nice to be able to blame your failures as well as excuse your own bigotry by playing the race card. Makes everything a win win situation.

    April 13, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  13. A J

    This couldn't be closer to the truth. Why do you think that Repugnican-controlled legislatures are passing tough voter laws? It's because minorities tend to vote more Democratic.
    And if you think that I'm just blowing smoke, all you need to do is to watch or listen to some of the right-wing pundits polluting our airwaves. I have never heard such hate-filled talk towards women or minorities in all of my life.

    April 13, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. cedaly1968

    I believe everyone has a tinge of racism in them, some more severe than others. There are clearly right-wing elements in the GOP that are severely racist. Racists typically dislike another racial group if not in words through violence. The Democrats on the other hand are bigots of a different sort. The far left of the Democratic Party is loaded with bigots who have created a nanny state that virtually crushes poor African Americans with so many government programs that they can make $40-$50,000 a year in money and services by not getting an education and not working. In the end, this type of politics only serves to divide and really does not help the country move forward.

    April 13, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  15. Steve

    I believe there are racists, sexists, bigots, and overall just plain lazy and bad people in all walks of life Mr. Congressman.. Of course you will excuse the Democrats who led the South against the Civil Rights Act correct? All we can do as a society is work diligently to overcome the different "ists" over time.

    April 13, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. equal=Bequal

    "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, ..."

    Then why do we base any decision on race (aid, scholarships, jobs, applications of any sort)? We should make these type decisions based on one's content of character rather than the color of their skin.

    April 13, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  17. Candlewick

    Race hustling is racism.

    April 13, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  18. Chris

    And the Democrats clearly have racist elements, too. Particularly those who accuse the other side of racism in its pursuit of Holder. To assume they're only going after him because he's black, rather than, oh, maybe his disregard for the Constitution, is in itself a racist assumption.

    April 13, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  19. taxman

    Now the GOP bigots are trying a back door approach by disguising their bigotry under "religious freedom" concepts and abusing the Robert's conservative leaning court to chip away of the freedoms we cherish. They call that getting back to the "good old days" when men ruled everything and minorities sat in the back of the bus and the Klan ran entire state governments. Lets not forget that Jeb is thinking about becoming Bush number 3 to finish off this country. Like the bumper sticker says..."Bush me once shame on you...Bush me twice shame on me....Bush me three times I'm moving to Canada.

    April 13, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  20. Dan

    Can't spin a good story about the economy, health care, the enforcement of existing laws so I'll play the race card. Funny how intolerant of differing views we have become. Pointing out the AG's and President's ineptitude and lack of respect for the existing rule of law has nothing to do with racism.

    April 13, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  21. NanaTo5

    Still playing the race card? Is that all the democrats have? You don't need facts when all you have to do is cry racism I guess. Yawn.

    April 13, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  22. JHL27

    To believe that Holder and Obama's race is not an issue among elements of the GOP is to believe in fairies and elves. And this Rep's comments are as close to that truth as we will ever see.

    And then there are Walden's comments about the IRS and Benghazi. Those two unfortunate episodes have had more studies and hearings than one would have thought possible. And still you have the House GOP committee leaders searching for anything they can. And it's not in part about race? Really?

    April 13, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  23. CapeCod

    Wasn't Robert Byrd (D) a member of the KKK?

    April 13, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  24. swatguy

    Holder and Obama are elitist liberals who happen to be black, not vice versa

    April 13, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  25. Buddy Ebsen

    I'm shocked shocked to learn that there is gambling going on in here.

    April 13, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
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