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. j. Page

    I belive Senator Clinton has EVERY right to say Obama has NO right to CLIAM he is anything like MLK or JFK. Those were two great men who earned the respect and reputation in history that they have. Obama SHOULD NOT liken himself to two of the greatest leaders in our Country He has done nothing to merit that likeness and to continue to do so reduces their importance. He may as any of us may have a DREAM or wish to bring about CHANGE but to equate oneself to those men is exactly what former President Clinton said a FAIRY TALE.

    January 13, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  2. rigso

    Well, no he didnt raise that, But even if he did so what? Obama did Cocaine, you dont think the repugs will jump ont hat? ITS COCAINE! not weed, much more serious drug.... I don't care that he did it, but others will...

    January 13, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  3. Skip

    In my many years of voting, I have always voted for the Democratic candidate for president. I am a Democratic activist and have run twice for public office. I voted twice for Bill Clinton for president, and probably would have voted for him had he been eligible for a third term in 2000.

    That said, I will never vote for Hillary Clinton for president. Judging from several of the previous comments to this thread from Democrats, it seems like the best way to assure a Republican will be in the White House in 2009 is for the Democrats to nominate Hillary Clinton.

    The 2000 and 2004 general election campaigns were truly ugly in their negativity, but those races will look as pleasant and serene as church picnic compared to 2008 if Clinton is the nominee. When a candidate is detested by the opponents - while also disliked by many of those in her own party - how can she possibly win in November?

    And with every underhanded, negative barb thrown by Hillary, Bill or their proxies, the Clinton campaign more and more takes on the pettiness of a middle-school class election. While such tactics may have a chance to work now, it certainly will lead to the most divisive election in recent memory if Clinton is the Democratic candidate.

    And it seems like panic is starting to set in within the party. Is it any wonder more and more high-profile Democrats have begin to throw their support behind candidates other than Clinton?

    Do Democratic voters really want to hand the Republicans another win in November?

    We shall see over the next few months . . .

    January 13, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  4. John

    Obama is a liar! His main campaign spokesperson Jesse Jackson commented on MSNBC that Hillary clinton is a racist; then he has the AUDACITY to claim that no one in the campaign said anything.

    OBAMA IS A FLIP FLOPPER and im glad other african americans are realizing that Obama is full of lies, deceit, and a fraud.

    ON TOP OF THAT, obama just copied hillary's economic plan. Talk about inexperience!

    Do not vote for obama.

    January 13, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  5. Justin

    PLEEEEEASE! He was very clearly referring to his drug use! Why else would he word it like he did?!!? How stupid do they think we are!?

    January 13, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  6. joe

    Hillary and Bill make me sick spin lie spin lie devide and conquer !

    Stand up to this America !

    Lets Change it all

    Obama/Edwards 08 please !!

    And maybe pass a law banning any Clinton and Bush realative from ever holding office because really they are the same monster !

    January 13, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  7. kenny

    I looked up to this all day sucker,i will never go back to a bobcat game

    January 13, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  8. Don

    I would also like to ask you guys why is no one talking about the fact that Bob Johnson and Hillary Clinton also praised Obama during this event. Its funny how the positive comments made by the campaign is not reported.Hmmm, wonder why that is. Guess it would be hard to make news about people being nice to each other.......oh please...Obama people. Don't believe all the negative. Hilaryhaters, atleast have a real reason to hate.

    January 13, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  9. John Adkisson, Sacramento, California

    This outrage combined with Senator Clinton's Nixonian remarks in her network television interview this morning, are making me question her basic qualities as a person. Desperation politics - when facts are twisted and history is distorted - is an indicator that a candidate is focused only on attaining power - and at at any cost.

    Those who would support the tactics of the "swiftboaters" or the "watergate plumbers" - will not be bothered by her turn to an ugly smear campaign - but those of us who worked for civil rights in the sixties, or who have been waiting for years for a transformational presidential candidate - should redouble our efforts to prevent a third Clinton term.

    Today - for the first time - I have decided to support Obama, but if he is not nominated, to pray for a third party candidacy such as Bloomberg's. We cannot afford to allow this unprincipled person to represent progressives. What good is that kind of change?

    January 13, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  10. Syed Rahman

    HRC campaign just wants some of us just to be audience . This campaign wants us to be silent in a proportion of Fairy Tale magnitude . But silence has power too . It has enormous power . As it has started showing . Being silenced by some one or being silent for last years does not mean we will be always silent .This is a maelstrom of silence . We are reaching to a vortex . This silence will speak up on up coming primaries . As no body pays attention to artist's indelible tiny signature at bottom of the art at any creative art . Now time has come everybody started seeing the artist's signature silently . We will speak silently as an artist's signature speaks without being noticed by art's critic .

    BOB is an art . We are the unnoticeable signature at bottom middle ( Not left, not right , not blue, not red ) .

    January 13, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  11. Ashley

    As an African American I can say that I personally am not supportive of Obama's bragging about his teenage drug use. For someone who constantly uses Christian rhetoric I think that people have a right to know about his past.

    January 13, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  12. mauricesoulchild

    Hillary Clinton is minimizing Obama's effectiveness as an African-American candidate- while suggesting that his accomplishments deserves kudos for our country to reach that fete. Then she tells the African-American voters in South Carolina (who were already concerned that the nation isn't ready to elect a Black Candidate) to "get back to reality," and raise fears that the nation may like Obama's message and suggest he isn't electable- which leaves Blacks and alot of Americans second guessing if they really want Obama to be President or not.

    Should Clinton get the nomination, she wouldn't get more votes for President than Obama would if he were the nominee. Clinton is not inevitable by any stretch of the imagination, because of her divisiveness and propaganda- She is definitely not likable by any party, especially independents.

    I wouldn't be surprised if even the youth vote wouldn't turn out to support a candidate like Clinton that is too divisive, political, and has no moral ethos whatsoever.

    January 13, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  13. Pon Mao

    I am ready to vote for Democrats this year, but if Hillary Clinton ever gets nominated, my vote will sure go to Republican, no matter who their candidate is.

    January 13, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |

    Is this part of Hillary's strategy to unify America and change the status quo in politics? By using the old tried and true, majority republican, smear tactics in her campaign? How is that a sign of change? How is that a sign of unity? Was Hillary even talking change until she figured out that Obama hit a nerve with the American public? IS she just waiting to see what Obama does next so she can copy it?

    If she is elected, is this the type of thing we can expect? Talk a big game and then give in to the old way of running Washington? I guess it's hard to give up 35 years of doing things the same way you've been doing them for 35 years.

    I guess the voter needs to ask themselves, do we want more of the same, or do we want something new, exciting and inspirational the likes this country hasn't seen since JFK?

    On the drug thing. Who in America isn't on some sort of drug, prescription or other. All the people pointing fingers, I guess you never experienced with any drug in your life, otherwise pointing the finger would make you a HYPOCRITE!

    January 13, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  15. j. Page

    I think Many of us have waited for something like this to happen. Because there is very little they can come back against Senator Clinton on......They can only MANUFACTURE a problem with her remarks on Obamas likeness to JFK and MLK. Anything to shed a bad light on Clinton. Well, thank goodness people are NOT buying into it. I wonder what people would say if she started saying she was Jackie Kennedy, or the Queen of England???? Soo stupid. And I donot believe it makes her look bad at all. I all most agree with Johnson, while Senator Clinton was working on political matters, Obama was probably out doing drugs, by his own admission. The truth IS the truth and atleast if she says it or does it , she OWNS up to it, and explains why she did what she did.

    January 13, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  16. rw

    The Clintons have scrutinized ad infinitum by the Washington establishment and the ruddy czar, Starr, and scandalized by the mainstream media. Bush's alcohol abuse in his younger years has been fodder for his detractors, even his daughters' partying has been feed for the cynics. Why not Obama?

    Looks like the Obama supporters are creating a myth. That is just fine. But myths do NOT belong in politics. Maybe he should change careers and become a preacher of TUCC where he can claim holiness of life and character. Obama the Unassailable, not subject to doubt, attack or question. I can't wait for super Tuesday when he is eliminated, this is getting boring already.

    January 13, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  17. TexanforHillary

    While you Obama supportors are riding on the "hope train" Senator Clinton is acomplishing things and laying out plans to make this country a better place for all of us.
    Why is Obama denigrating President Johnson? Why is he denigrating Senator Clinton instead of working on bills to help the people. Words, words, words.
    Look at the records folks. Get off the train at the next stop. Hope is empty without action

    January 13, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  18. Kat, Huntington, West Virginia

    yes, hillary did say that to finish the goals of the civil rights movement they (we)needed LBJ. Think about this for a minute...dreaming certainly is NOT enough and I am sure Obama would agree. MLK and millions of others who marched in the streets on behalf of racial equality had to dream but for the laws to be passed, for the civil rights acts of 1964 and 1965 to be signed into law a lawmaker had to sign them! It is vital that we have dreamers because unless we can dream it we certainly cannot be it, but then we must go beyond that and make those dreams a reality. Neither MLK nor any other leader could/can do that alone. It takes experience, determination and expertise to make those dreams a part of our national reality.

    January 13, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  19. charlieblaze

    For people who think that the media is lambasting Sen. Clinton for her comments, look no further than herself. I'm not going to advocate for Obama or Clinton, but it seems that Clinton has been hanging herself lately. Obama caught flak for his comments about invading Pakistan, so he has been grilled too. He also received chastisement for his comment about Hillary being likable enough in NH.

    The problem with Clinton is that she is getting too negative in this campaign and that is why she is giving the media fodder. Say whatever you will about Obama, he's not making statements to question Hillary's character. Obama even stated that he has no comment about Hillary's MLK comments. Sen. Clinton really should just stick presenting her plans and goals rather than try to mudsling, because she's getting dirty in the process.

    January 13, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  20. Politics of Personal Destruction or Fair Comment?

    Since when is it out-of-bounds to criticize a presidential candidate for admitted, illegal use of drugs? Why should Clinton "condemn" Johnson for his remarks? And why should Johnson (disingenuously) claim that he wasn't referring to drug use? Clinton should be free to argue that the public is entitled to think less of Obama for his admitted use of drugs, and Obama should be free to explain why his relative youth mitigates the offense. Johnson, in turn, ought to be able to say, "Of course I was referring to his drug use. What else would I have meant?" Instead, the media has created a new set of rules prohibiting anyone from daring to raise the issue as prohibited "negative" campaigning. What gives?

    January 13, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  21. Robert Bell

    The Clintons once again using a proxy to smear Obama.

    Bill admitted to smoking pot (I didn't inhale, right?).

    What about Hillary?

    She has never answered this question.

    If Bill was toking on the bong, what was Hillary doing at the time?

    Careful, Hillary, this issue could boomerang.

    At least Obama has been HONEST about it.

    2/3 of my senior class in 1978 admitted to smoking pot.

    Are we supposed to LIE about it now, like Bill Clinton did?

    Our generation (class of 1979) experienced the fallout from the free-love and fee-drug era of the Baby Boomers like Clinton.

    They had pot and Woodstock and free love and rock 'n roll.

    We got saddled with a crack epidemic, teenage pregnancy, AIDS, and disco.

    Time for the Baby Boomers to retire and let a new generation take over.

    This election is all about the generation gap. Only this time, its the Baby Boomers who are the establishment, who think they are entitled.

    Funny how that all worked out. Hillary – the new Nixon!

    January 13, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  22. sweetpea

    And everyone through Bush ran an evil campaign against Senator Kerry...
    Clinton is desperate. She's got her flunkies throwing all kinds of lies, and inuendos about Senator Obama to the press. Then she has the nerve to say she doesn't know anything about it. She is a calculating liar. Clinton believes she is entitled to become the President. Her prearranged question that caused her to "cry"? was phony, just as the question a young man asked her when he said "will you marry me"? She's transparent and will do anything to become the nominee of the Democratic party.
    We don't need more of the same controlling administration that we've had for almost eight years with Bush.

    January 13, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  23. Youth Voter, USA

    Obama and his campaign should stop crying for every word any person says. It's free speech and Bob Johnson is an adult, a CEO and one who made BET happen.

    Till now you respected Bob Johnson because of BET. Now if he says something on his own, its Hillary's fault?

    Stop crying foul based on every word which comes out a persons mouth.

    Think how disgraceful Obama was when he said "You are likeable enough"/

    Did Hillary's campaign cry foul on that?

    God help such crying whining fairy tale supporters!

    January 13, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  24. Ian CA

    To quote an episode of The Boondocks: "BET is the worst channel in the history of television."

    January 13, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  25. Kathie in Arkansas

    Does anyone not remember the attack on Bill Clinton because he admitted to having tried pot, but didn't inhale? Obama confesses in his own hand that he used pot and cocaine and to bring that up is a persoanl attack? It also seems each time he gets criticized out comes the race card, no political figures in the US have been more supportive of African Americans than the Clintons. Shame on Obama for stooping so low. If he continues to use race to deflect criticism he most assuredly will not win, he's already lost my vote.

    January 13, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
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