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. Nobama!!!!!!


    *gets popcorn*

    January 13, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  2. jimmy

    "There are thieves in the Temple."

    January 13, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  3. Adam, Pittsburgh, PA

    I've always said I'd vote for the Dem nominee no matter what, but Hillary is really making me rethink this.

    January 13, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  4. Obama4ever!

    OBAMA4EVER January 12, 2008 5:44 pm ET


    GO OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 13, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  5. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    So let's hear from the Yalies who partied with Bill and Hill. Did either of themever inhale anything?

    January 13, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  6. charlotte

    the GOP will have a field day of Obama, if by some fluke, he wins the nomination

    January 13, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  7. PulSamsara

    It is time to pass the torch away form Clinton-Bush divisive politics of the past 20 years. It is time to move forward !
    I hope we have an independent candidate to vote for if Hillary is nominated because I will vote against the Dems for the first time. I fail to see how Clinton can stand for a new direction this country desperately needs.

    January 13, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  8. Martha, Georgia

    Robert Johnson is another Al Sharpton, pander to the Clintons because its time for payback. Obama has just thrown a wrench in Hillary's campaign and she is using anything and any fool to make her case. Enough of the Clintons and their "IOU" friends. Robert Johnson is notorious for stepping on the toes of those that are vocal in the communities. Now I remember why BET is black ENTERTAINMENT.

    January 13, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  9. Lisa

    Obama was honest about having experimented with drugs as a TEENAGER. Before he went to college.

    Bill Clinton said that he smoked pot in college but didn't inhaled (sure), oh and not while on American soil. Bush's youth lingered until his 40th birthday.

    It doesn't bother me that someone has made errors, but I prefer the honest people. Mr. Clinton's finger wagging "I didn't have sex with that woman" has shown the world that when he gets indignant, he is usually lying.

    January 13, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  10. mike

    what did she promise him. deal making is the key and old washington politics.

    January 13, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  11. Another Steve

    Agian. This is old stuff. Can we move on? If not then I'd like to know where Hillary was while Bill was trying marijuana, but not inhaling. At least he has always been honest with the voters about his youth, something the Clintons have a hard time with.

    January 13, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  12. Amy

    Maybe if Bob Johnson would actually "read" Obama's book "Dreams of My Father" he would not taken Obama's words out of context.

    Shame on the BET founder to say anything derogatory about Barack Obama. The BET network is the most misogynistic network I have ever seen. Has anything positive ever come out of Mr. Johnsons promotion of gangster rap, and misogynistic videos.

    Maybe if he read Obama's book, he could learn a little self-reflection himself.

    January 13, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  13. Tracy

    Obama opened up about his drug use long long ago, and admitted it was a huge mistake. He hasn't touched them since he was a teen. He's talked to teens, urging them to resist drugs. The only difference between him and the Clintons is that the Clintons "didn't inhale." Yeah right. Americans listen to and respect Obama's judgement so much more than the Clinton's lies.

    January 13, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  14. David

    She is really showing how good a republican she can be, she makes the mistake, and when the newswires bring it up, she points to the other camp and say she is being distorted...

    Anyone who had read the actual transcript cannot deny that she de-emphasized Dr. King's role and emphasized President Johnson...

    Sorry that it makes African-americans a little angry, but Clinton said it, not Obama...

    Lets see how many people buy this slam from the Clinton Machine

    January 13, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  15. Bryan

    Now that they are threatened, the Clintons are coming out with an ugly compaign. This shows the sort of administration they would run-just more divisive politics and degeneration of our political culture. We need someone that can bring people together and be level-headed. I am for Obama, but I would certainly vote for McCain over Clinton the way this is going. Democratics should consider that Obama and McCain are likely the candidates of the moderate middle. That is not because they are the most moderate candidates, but because they are the ones least likely to continue the poltics of division we have suffered over the last eight (16?) years...

    January 13, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  16. Parama

    If Hillary gets the nomination, republican candidate gets two votes in our household. If Barack gets the nomination, we will gladly vote for him.

    January 13, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  17. Patty D.

    Let the mud slinging begin! With behavior like this, you would think they were Republicans.

    January 13, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  18. brainsplus

    ... immediately I heard the political spin by the Obama camp on this, I was worried for them because if they think this would win over African Americans, it actually might not but instead become a liability ... thanks a trillion

    "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

    January 13, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  19. KATHY

    This is really appaling and disgusting, yet not so surprising considering Hillary Clinton's campaign tactics of using the attack dogs like her husband & other supporters to try to smear B. Obama, while at the same time using her "tears" and "that hurts my feelings" messages to claim some sort of martyr status against the anti-feminist boys club.

    Refering to an elected official who has started with nothing, unlike Mr. Johnston, who was sued by his own sister, beat out other networks for the O.J. Simpson "If I did it" interview, was accused more than once of improper relationships with female employees, fired his own wife, and runs misogynist videos which glorify drugs and show scantily-clad Black women on his network. And his accusing B. Obama of being S. Poiter? What is his point, exactly? Obama is younger than Clinton so he doesn't have her "34 years of experience" – even though most of those years were spent as First Ladies – but he has worked for causes just as much as she has in her years in office.

    And her affection from the Black community is for BILL – who wasn't running the last time I checked – or is he?

    January 13, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  20. Veronica Ward

    I can't beleive they are bringing this up again! I don't think it's Hillary's fault but you have to wonder if she's that desperate. If I was Obama, I wouldn't even waste my time commenting on this kind of crap!

    January 13, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  21. Florence, South Carolina

    For all of the voters who are talking about rethinking the Democratic race because of Hillary are not really using your head, You and I and everyone know that Obama is full of Hot Air. No Experience, Empty Suit will not keep this country safe' look at the facts and issues that are at hand. WAY TO GO HILLARY CLINTON NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.,

    January 13, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  22. New York Independent

    Bob Johnson has one interest: his own corporate ambitions. He appears to be as principled as the campaign he is flacking for. Shame, shame, shame.

    January 13, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  23. Carl L.

    Please please Hilary do not stoop this low. If you are to loose then loose gracefully. If you win let it be because the people saw you fit to be a leader. But to try and bring down a fellow front front runner (by any sneaky means) is just not cool.


    January 13, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  24. Mikel

    Please read Obama's FULL response. Not enough news sites are showing this. Thanks to Ben Smith at Politico.

    What we saw this morning is why the American people are tired of Washington politicians and the games they play. But Sen. Clinton made an unfortunate remark, an ill advised remark, about King and Lyndon Johnson. I didn’t make the statement. I haven’t remarked on it, and she I think offended some folks who felt that somehow diminished King’s role in bringing about the Civil Rights Act. She is free to explain that, but the notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous.

    I have to point out that instead of telling the American people about her positive vision for America, Sen. Clinton spent an hour talking about me and my record in a way that was flat-out wrong. She suggested that I didn’t clearly and unambiguously oppose the war in Iraq when it is absolutely clear and anyone who has followed this knows that I did. I stood up against the war when she was voting for it, at a time when she didn’t read the intelligence reports or give diplomacy a chance. She belittled the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate despite the fact that she stood on the sidelines during that negotiations on that bill.

    I have to say that she started this campaign saying that she wanted to make history and lately she has been spending a lot of time rewriting it. I know that in Washington it is acceptable to say or do anything it takes to get elected, but I really don’t think that is the kind of politics that is good for our party, and I don’t think it is good for our country, and I think that the American people will reject it in this election.

    What I want to do is spend time talking about how we are going to make sure that people who are losing their jobs get work. How are we going to make sure that our young people are going to afford college? How are we going to make sure that the subprime lending crisis does not lead to an all-out recession? How are we going to create the kind of foreign policy that allows us to bring our troops home and makes us safer and goes after a genuine terrorist threat? Those are the issues that we are going to spend time talking about in this campaign and if Sen. Clinton wants to be distracted by the sorts of political point scoring that was evident today then that is going to be her prerogative.

    January 13, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  25. Phil

    Hillary lost my support early on when she started talking about the "republican machine". The only "machine" is the separation and polarization of issues that people like that force on the American people. Red state or blue state MOST PEOPLE agree on many of the issues in America. And on the lower percent of issues that are fairly polar, they share a lot of common ground.

    It's the false polarization that is the problem.

    January 13, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42