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. SteveS

    Gee, ya think??

    What do ya think the entire Birther movement was about.

    April 13, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  2. karek40

    The democrats also have racist elements, most of us can name some of them, Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton, etc. I expect the every group has some racial element or elements.

    April 13, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  3. Ramon F Herrera

    Next, the esteemed Congressman proceeded to show his latest discovery: the wheel...

    April 13, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  4. Shawn

    Playing the race card is getting old and just leading to more division in this country. I would say beat them on your ideas but let's face it Americans are rejecting both parties now and both parties know it. Neither party knows what they are doing and the American people are paying because of it.

    April 13, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  5. Morris

    America’s liberal public education racket has COMPLETELY bamboozled young people about the REAL history of the Democrat Party, which is a murderous tale of bigotry and oppression that would make most liberals’ heads explode if they understood or were confronted with it. Ku Klux Klan was CREATED by the Democrat Party. The evidence? There’s mountains of it from world- class historians.

    April 13, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  6. Name denise wells

    Yes i agree

    April 13, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  7. Jim Douglas

    While I'm sure there are racists in both parties, if the GOP is so racist, how is it that Colin Powell and Condi Rice were confirmed?

    April 13, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  8. karek40

    Most political groups have racist elements, most can name some of those elements in the democratic party; Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson, etc.

    April 13, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  9. just wondering

    really you think....

    April 13, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  10. Mike from New York

    Yeah, please keep talking.

    Please make more comments generalizing an entire political party because you have no real ability to get attention any other way.

    You know what makes a country better? When one half of a broken political system takes the time to generalize and insult the other half of a broken political system.

    Steve Israel is a bum. That's coming from a Democrat.

    April 13, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  11. vidal808

    There is definitely an element of racism in the Republican Party. I know from my own experience that some of my Republican acquaintances are making racial remarks but sure deny to be racists. The GOP is no doubt a racial infiltrated entity and can not deny it.

    April 13, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  12. GTS58

    It is not the Republicans who have kept Blacks in a state of dependency for the past 60 years! It was LBJ back in the mid 60's who started the great society programs in which trillions have been wasted. Historians accurately recorded LBJ as having no real interest in the plight of Blacks – only ensuring they vote "democratic until the end of time." Those were LBJ's exact words and he routinely referred to Blacks using the N word. The real racist's are Democrats!

    April 13, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  13. JC

    Of course the progressive movement is pushing the race card. It's all they have left. Holder and Obama claiming that they are being treated the way they are because of race is a joke. Holder has been bashed and ripped since day one, but he's also the only JD official that has ever taken as many liberties with his position as he has. If a republican were to sell guns to cartels the left would have crucified him. Claiming racism is ignorant and proof has nothing else to defend himself with. It's completely unfair to use the race card when you have been directly responsible for dozens of deaths. Holder is the worst ever in his position. This article and the progressive games are getting sickening. There's absolutely no reason to try to divide the country by using race, and that's exactly what progressives are doing. Moderate liberals need to open their mouths and tell the far left to put a sick in it.

    April 13, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  14. Tyler

    The Democratic Race Baiting Machine is fully operational for midterm elections.

    April 13, 2014 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  15. Carol Jacobson

    A friend of mine says that if we compare the beliefs of the current Clu Clux Clan with the beliefs of the Republican Party you will find that they are often the same. They have no respect for the philosophy of this country. They make rules that control who can vote, when they can vote and they keep people from voting who they feel will not support them. They are both racist and both have no resect for the rightss of women. Now they have people with so much money that the Reublican candidates line up like children to see who can get their backing. Is this what are country is becoming? Have you no values, no shame?

    April 13, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  16. Damien

    In other news, the sky is blue.

    April 13, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  17. SBM

    So does the DNC...... believe me....

    April 13, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  18. Paul

    A portion of the GOP is def racist, look at the Tea party- do you ever see any black people at their rallies? If the GOP d0esnt progress they will be left in the dust

    April 13, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  19. Steve

    absolutely pathetic comment by Sen. Israel

    April 13, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  20. ED1

    I can't even think how many times the race card has been played by Democrats this year as mid term elections come up.

    I would have to say the Democrats are the biggest racist ever seems like that's all they can do blame everything on race not the crappy job or lack of of that they are doing.

    Stick to the facts and stop playing the blame and race card.

    April 13, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  21. zanadude

    I know this will seem a crazy idea to many on this site, but...could it be that the president and the AG are treated badly because they're proven to be consistently dishonest and conniving?

    Just a thought. For reference, try "Fast and Furious", "Benghazi", the stack of lies/distortions in the history of the ACA, and keep going from there.

    April 13, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  22. bannister

    The Democratic Party has racist elements too – anti-white racism, that is. And this form of anti-white hatred is personified by one Steve Israel, the Jewish congressman from New York. Let's start being honest about the racism, bigotry and ethnocentrism on BOTH sides of the aisle!

    April 13, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  23. Barashiet

    Oh Geez, here we go. Holder is the most crooked person in that position I have ever seen. That is why he is treated different!

    April 13, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  24. John D.

    Pelosi is off her rocker.

    April 13, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  25. Captain Louis Renault

    The first words out of a racists mouth after being called a racist are usually, "I'm not a racist."

    April 13, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
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