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. magda

    obama's rhetoric is just simply full of empty promises; he offers no REAL solutions, just utopic BS....he has no clue as to how to solve any of our problems....if there is a divider, it is him

    what theresa was to kerry, obama's wife will be to him – she can't be 1st lady – she is just too ghetto – i wonder why the media is not checking her out...the republicans will tear her to pieces

    January 13, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  2. Ann

    During Bill Clinton's years, it was the "Right wing conspiracy" Now it is the "Obama conspiracy"

    January 13, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  3. James Brown ( Independent )

    The more i see of the Clinton campaign , the more disgusted i am. There is nothing they will not do or say to get elected. I see Hillary as a very dishonest person with a sense of entitlement.

    OBAMA has my vote , and i see his lack of experience as a huge plus.

    January 13, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  4. Kevin,FL


    January 13, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  5. Wayne

    Obama has allowed Jesse Jackson Jr. to turn his campaign into a race baiting smear job on the Clintons. It's pathetic. Wake up people. Is this the HOPE and UNITY Obama was talking about? Stop drinking the Kool-aide !

    January 13, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  6. Michelle

    I am really sad that the campaign is devolving into such pettiness. This makes Hillary look very small. To try to say that he was talking about his work as a community organizer or his time in the Illinois is an insult to our intelligence. This is the kind of devisiveness she has shown so many times in the past. I'm beginning to see why Republicans and Independents hate her so much.

    January 13, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  7. Dave

    I have an idea. If we just vote for our peers. If you have used drugs at any time in your life... I should be clear... illegal drugs, than vote for the candidate that admits the same. If you have never used illegal drugs in your life vote for a candidate that claims to be above ever having used drugs. Of course then we get into the grey area of under aged drinking and the abuse of prescription drugs... those would seem to fall under the illegal category. It would also require us to be honest with ourselves and others about who we really are so it might be too much to expect.

    January 13, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  8. bitter anyone?

    It seem Obama supporters can't handle the truth and are crybabies when they lose and will use the race card at will.

    I knew with I saw Chris Matthew comments the day after the NH election that was the new tactics. Obama people thought the Clintons would not fight and that African Americans are stupid.

    Obama people and the media have been distorting and lying all over the place and now we see them crying all over this thread.

    Obama disgust me and as a African American, I can say with all honesty, Obama you couldn't kiss the ground that Martin Luther King walk and those who gave up their lives for the struggle.

    btw, It is the media that is bringing up the drug use, not Bob Johnson...if Obama book only message is his drug use...then why are you supporting him as the next President of the United States.

    Like I said before, Obama people using the race card is going to back fire big time in my community

    January 13, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  9. Ken

    While I am Amazed by what is going on, I feel Clintons had overlay underestimated the power of Obama to overtake her. Remember her in Iowa and NH. She pleaded for votes. I just love that now they are struggling for recognition. I hope they are enjoying the blanket of voters that came out for Obama.
    This shows how well we recognize people who talk to us rather than pretend to be with you.
    Hillary cried when her campaign was all the time low and blown out. Now that they rigged the elections, we have no time trying to reason with them!

    January 13, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  10. CE, Wisconsin, USA

    Politics of Personal Destruction 2008 edition. The one thing in common with the 90's version is the Clinton's....hmmmmm.

    January 13, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  11. David

    Let's be real; what has Obama done for the black community. Why done you wake up and smell the coffee. We are all in this together. I remember as a young man reminding people to syay focus. The Obama campaign is using the race card to avaid discussing his inexperience. The truth is that the person for all Americans is Hillary Clinton.

    January 13, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  12. Jimmy

    Why is it everything I see out of the Clinton campaign, it is always something negative? Coming from the lady who couldn't keep her husband happy, I question if she can keep a whole country happy.

    January 13, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  13. Felecia

    First I want to say is how dare the Clinton's to make that statment in which they did say regarding Dr King! And for Mr Johnson to support the Clintons after the comment they made regarding Dr King shows that in my opion has forgot where they came from..Dr King was a wonderful person who yes thought that we(blacks) deserve to be equal among our peers.. For Clintons to mke that statement really hurt them as far as my vote.. What B.O done as a young man sure not have anything to do with what his intention's are now..Thesae comments that Mr Johnson has made only made me realize that the person I had wantted to vote for(H.C) I will not, I will as a african america cast my vote for B.O as will I encourage my young daughter sto do!

    January 13, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  14. Don

    Does anyone even care to check the facts. To see how things were said? What context? Read the whole quote? Do we now live in a society that we believe the headline without reading the whole story. Do you not think the media is working you to stir up a story, thus ratings for their corporate bosses? There are things said on both sides, buy people who are NOT the canidates that are stupid. That is not Obama or Hillary saying those things. We need to stop the stupidity or we will never get our country back. The only true thing said in this campaign might be that our educational system is letting us down. We have been dumbed down by cable tv and the internet. Its now common for a HEADLINE to hit either site and people are up in arms about a "controversary" that should not exist. We are all guilty for falling into the trap and not seeing it. Obama and Clinton supporters should be together. Both people are great people, who will lead this country to a better future if WE let them. However, it seems we are more likely to tear each other apart over non-issues and no real change will occur. This has become ridiculous. Do some research. You all are being played and its a sad statement on or society.

    January 13, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  15. jenny

    The Clinton supporters must live in the twilight zone...they need to open their eyes and do alittle research...this couple would do anything to get power...Hillary broke down only when she thought she would lose the nomination... not because of all the hard work she has done her whole life for the american people blah blah blah.. it's always been about her or him ...people wake up!

    January 13, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  16. Scott, Madison, WI

    Wake up people! Do we really want another 8 years of this divisve and petty political bickering? Bill and Hillary are the birth parents of divide and conquer strategy. They'll win at any cost because they feel entiltled to it, they deserve it and it's their turn (again). This mentality is prevalent in their political history. It's all about power and self-promotion while undermining and tearing down the opposition and using the high art form they mastered called distraction and spin to do it. Right wing conspiracy anyone? Victim mentality? No! We in real world call it personal responsibility!

    Hillary on Meet the Press this morning dropped her subtle hints, and now the innuendo engine is revving up with the talking points and will take them out on the campaign trail in every guise known to man . Every explanation or statement she gives begins with "I". Doesn't that tell you something about her motivation in getting to the presidency? No. Mrs. Clinton, it's about us, not you!

    I'm very sorry Mrs. Clinton, this voter will not be used as a pawn in helping you settle old grudges and scores with Bill or Washington insiders. Your schoolyard tactics have seen their day back in the 90's and won't be tolerated in this new century where our potential as a nation can not be squandered again. You and hubby had your chance and blew it! No do-overs!

    Why are we still talking about the same issues as were then? If you have been so effective as an agent of change, why are things still in the same in Washington as when you arrived on the scene? Why couldn't your husband's 2 terms in office propel a sitting VP into office after what you claim to be the most successful presidency in recent history? Now that's a fairytale! Give ME a break!

    January 13, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  17. Paul Seattle

    "Swift boating" should not be Clinton's strategy . It is appalling. Count me in on casting one more vote for McCain if HRC is the candidate.

    January 13, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  18. Keivn

    Clinton will win. Accept it or get on the band wagon later.

    This is politics and both candidates are trying to gain advantage. I think Obama is campaiging to be a VP and Clinton will choose him. Clinton is too strong nationally for anyone to pose a serious threat. You will see soon.

    January 13, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  19. Chuck F

    Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are by far the best Democrats still in the race. My choice is Hillary. It is too bad that there are so many people who are so influenced by negative comments about the candidates.

    I will, however, vote for any Democrat that wins the nomination! I will NEVER vote for any of the Republicans as they have nearly ruined our Country.

    January 13, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  20. Dave, IL

    It's always the Republicans that come on these blogs and bash Hillary at every expense. You are all so scared that she will be President. And she will.

    Get over it.

    And accept it.

    January 13, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  21. Desmon

    Bob Johnson is the same guy who soldout BET. His comments about Barack does not surprise me... He is a "house negro," who only cares about his financial portfolio...

    January 13, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  22. Jack, Greenville, SC

    Obama'c campaign is not making her comments an issue. She is saying that he is to create a problem for him. That is the sneakiest kind of politicking. I agree with previous posters, I don't know how I could, in good conscience, vote for her.

    January 13, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  23. chicken

    Hilary and Obama both turn me off and most other modorate consrvitves check out this site http://www.mikehuckabee.com

    January 13, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  24. Tyler

    January 13, 2008 5:44 pm ET

    Obama has allowed Jesse Jackson Jr. to turn his campaign into a race baiting smear job on the Clintons. It's pathetic. Wake up people. Is this the HOPE and UNITY Obama was talking about? Stop drinking the Kool-aide !


    Well if Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton try to get into this controversy against Clinton's remarks and Obama says nothing against it, then that would be the divisiveness that people accuse Hillary of showing.

    January 13, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  25. Tom Davie

    Anonymous writes.....

    ..........I had also thought I was going to vote for the Demcratic nominee no matter what, and I will vote for Edwards or Obama, but this is the last straw for Clinton with me. If she wins the nomination, I'll vote for Huckabee or McCain, if one of those two win on the GOP side. Her true colors are showing through now, and after the last seven years of Bush, I don't want another person like that in the White House...........


    Anonymous here has written hundreds of posts on CNN threads and consistently does whatever he can to SPITE hillary clinton, so this 'change of heart is an outright scam. He was never voting for clinton no matter if Jesus himself endorsed her.

    This is what Anonymous thinks:

    If I dont GET MY WAY (obama, we all know Edwards has no chance) :

    I will vote for a guy (mcCain) who wants to KEEP THE WAR GOING IN IRAQ , is the most STAUNCH BUSH SUPPORTER , AND KEEP ALL THE TAX BREAKS FOR THE RICH .

    He will vote for a guy who doesnt stand for issues that Obama does. .

    How smart can this be?

    Are all these Obama supporters interested in Obama, and not the issues they stand for? That is INSANE.

    January 13, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
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