January 14th, 2008
07:18 AM ET
10 years ago

Clinton backer appears to raise Obama's drug use


Clinton and Johnson attended services at the Northminster Presbyterian Church Sunday (Photo Credit: AP)

(CNN) - BET founder and prominent Hillary Clinton supporter Bob Johnson said Sunday he is 'insulted' with the Obama campaign's latest criticisms of Clinton, and appeared to take aim at the Illinois senator for his admitted drug use as a young man.

"As an African American, I'm frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Bill and Hillary Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing but he said it in his book," Johnson said while campaigning with Clinton in Columbia South Carolina.

In a statement released by Obama's campaign Sunday afternoon, former South Carolina State Rep. "I.S." Leevy Johnson, an Obama supporter, said he was offended Clinton did not condemn Johnson's comments.

“It’s offensive that Senator Clinton literally stood by and said nothing as another one of her campaign’s top supporters launched a personal, divisive attack on Barack Obama,” he said. “For someone who decries the politics of personal destruction, she should’ve immediately denounced these attacks on the spot.”

Clinton's campaign says Johnson was not referring to Obama's past drug use, but rather his career as an organizer and state legislator. Meanwhile, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, another African-American supporter of Clinton, said of the comments, "Sometimes people say things that aren't sanctioned ... I can't speak for Bob."

Later Sunday, Johnson maintained the comments were not in reference to Obama's drug use: "My comments today were referring to Barack Obama's time spent as a community organizer, and nothing else," he said in an issued statement. "Any other suggestion is simply irresponsible and incorrect."

In Obama's 1995 book Dreams of My Father — a book that was little read at the time, but recently reprinted — the future presidential candidate writes he was once headed in the direction of a "junkie" and a "pothead."

Referring to his emotional struggles as a young man, Obama writes, "Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though."

Last month, Clinton New Hampshire co-chairman Bill Shaheen resigned his post after suggesting Republicans would likely raise the issue in a general election.

"The Republicans are not going to give up without a fight … and one of the things they're certainly going to jump on is his drug use," Shaheen said then. "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'"

Both campaigns are locked in a heated back and forth over recent remarks from the New York Democrat and her husband that have touched off concerns among some African-American voters. Clinton has alleged Obama's campaign is distorting the remarks - an accusation Obama has called "ludicrous."

Related video: BET founder on Clinton, Obama

- CNN's Sasha Johnson and Alexander Mooney

soundoff (1,037 Responses)
  1. Alan Small

    I am old enough to remember JFK and young enough to be inspired by Obama. The rest of the world is watching and hoping that your great country has the courage to elect a beacon of light and inspiration. Enough of Billary!

    January 15, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  2. just joe


    I have firsthand information that Bill Clinton isnot running in '08, but Hillary Clinton is, so why do so many of the comments above talk about the Clintons' ( note. that's plural), and THEIR drug use? Do you educated makers-of-comments know something that I don't know which impacts this election? Because of Obama's inexperience......or, more likely....as a product of the generation in which he grew up....he did drugs...and booze. and he told us about it. So he is getting hammered during the campaign........shouldn't have put it in his book if he was planning on running for the Presidency. There are still plenty of us out there who never even thought of that crap as a need, you know. I noticed a few comments suggesting that maybe even Hillary used drugs. This is getting to the level of mass hysteria. Back off, folks.

    January 15, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  3. Karen

    Johnson is not African American. He's shufflin', steppin', bowin' down yessir boss ignorant. Money does not make you smart.

    January 15, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  4. Kevin

    Bob Johnson doesn't speak for anyone but himself, and now maybe Hilary. Any black person with half a brain understands the negative effects of BET on the sociological orientation of black youth. He should pocket his millions and shut up and leave criticism of outstanding American citizens to someone more qualified.

    January 15, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  5. Karl

    Bob Johnson's comments were as terrible as his BET network. Once again, pawns are being called in to do the political dirty work of the Clintons. It was appalling to listen to him make such insulting statements and to watch Hillary say nothing at all. This is so typical of her campaign tactics even with her staffers constant inuendo and negative comments about Obama. These are clear examples of the character of Hillary and once again, only demonstrates that she and her husband will stoop new levels of dirty politics to win at all costs. It is time the Clintons to go home and enjoy a quiet and peaceable life and allow a new generation of thinking and change to make the mantle of leading this great country of ours. Vote Obama!

    January 15, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  6. Lisa, Texas

    Bob Johnson is doing the Bob Johnson thing. I really forgot all about him until this. But, he thought the same thing of the public forgeting he was half the founder of BET, so he had to make a come back.

    However, it was not a very good move on his part. Not very smart. I do think Obama is the right person for the job.

    The Clintons............well who is worse Hillary or Lucifer?

    I do ask though, other than the recent events regarding the Obama/Hillary tiff, does the American public really know Hillary and Bill? There are sites out there I have been reading that are saying things about her I even forgot. I remember reading the book Primary Colors which was all about the Clintons.

    Yeah, Bill likes to give. Bill has the charm to woo people, but there is so much about those people that is evil. Many political sites townhall.com and stophernow.com have unleashed a stream of damaging information regarding her. Read on people. Read about Hillary, then cast a vote.

    January 15, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  7. Lisa, Texas

    If you are interested in knowing exactly who Mr. Robert Johnson and his position on race read an article at The New republic, tnr.com.....Paint it Black! written 09/03/2001. Johnson is no good man.

    January 15, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  8. GA Boy

    Bob Johnson has single-handedly wreaked more havoc on the Black community in America than any single person in the history of this country. The filth in which he peddled via BET for 25 years has caused incalculable harm to the race. And Black Americans should be ashamed of putting him on a pedastal. For what? For knowing how to buy low and sell high? So does a pimp know how to do, which is exactly what Bob Johnson has acted like over the years. To now take his opinion of anything as worthwhile is completely misguided. But this is where Black Americans will draw the line. We will not be told by the "leadership" who to vote for and how to think. And if we do happen to succumb to this, it won't be Bob Johnson!

    January 16, 2008 04:07 am at 4:07 am |
  9. PA Guy

    After last nights debate, I believe “The Candidate Who Really Can and Will Bring Change,” and truly displayed leadership qualities as well as the importance of experience is Hillary R. Clinton. It will take some time, but people will eventually realize and vote their conscience knowing that she is the most qualified and that she will bring change into peoples lives.

    January 16, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  10. Ron333wood

    I don't think that Bill Clinton can throw any stones about drugs. I'd have a difficult time voting for anyone using Karl Rove politics, but Bill and Hillary have enough skeletons in their closets that they could open up a Jello factory. We need some one that can bring red and blue states together as well as black and white and all the shades in between with and without wrinkles. We are in a crisis and machine politicians and their political machines are the manufacturer's of that crisis. There are some mavericks in this election that are striking a chord with a lot of people that feel left out and ignored. Ron Paul, David Kusinich, John Edwards and especially Barack Obama...and I don't care that his middle name is HUSSEIN!!! I'd like to feel that the Democratic party is big enough to listen to anyone that brings forth ideas that would improve our economy, educational system, security, stature in the eyes of the rest of the world, and end that lamentable war.

    January 16, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  11. joyo

    Bob Johnson is a ignorant fool, Charlie Rangel is a ignorant fool, they both must be decendants of sell-outs, his district should throw him out of congress on his big fat ears, how does these so called idiots stay in congress so long, there should be term limits, or mental evaluations after so many years. Just think Charlie Rangel senile self is in charge of making decisions for our country, how scarrrrrrrrrrrrrry. As for Bill and Hill i'm sure the voting machines are already rigged their way and the pundits know it.because if they thought this was a free and fair election then OB would win hands down, Obama and Kucinich ticket and i am african american or an american i am voting for Obama cause he is qualified not cause he is black, my second choice is edwards. (he is cute) We need to make a constitutional amendment, you must retire at 60, get outtttttttttttttt.

    January 16, 2008 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  12. charlotte

    Check out the blogs. Republicans get 45/50 comments, Hillary or Obama get 800/1500. Hope this holds true in the general election, Republicans out numbered at about 500 to one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 17, 2008 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
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