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)


    January 13, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  2. Amy

    How thick does Hillary's campaign think we are? "Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing but he said it in his book" is the quote. If Johnson were REALLY talking about being a community organizer, why would he have such an aversion to saying it outright?

    The "I won't say what he was doing" definitely implies drug use. If it were community organizing he meant he would've just said it.

    This is all just Clintonian nonsense. She started off by making race comments to bait Obama, and make him into the "race" candidate. When he wouldn't bite she turns around saying the comments were HIS doing! How is this possible if he never said anything about them in the first place?

    Ask me a week or two ago and I would've said Hillary is a fabulous second choice to Obama, and that in the end I wouldn't have cared which of the two get the nomination.

    But no more. If she gets it I'll vote green.

    January 13, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  3. Matt

    What’s so inspiring about Obama is that he has moved beyond the politics of race, and works tirelessly for inclusion, unity, equal justice, and mutual respect. Meanwhile, Clinton and her surrogates (shame on you Mr. Johnson) have denigrated this campaign by bringing race front and center. The Clintons, who have done much for the black community, should know better. This sideshow, which detracts from the real issues facing this country, does nothing but hurt Obama, Clinton, and the Democratic party. Ms. Clinton, apologize and let’s move on!

    January 13, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  4. Tyler

    A person above posted Obama's lack of experience was a good thing...please tell me how that is a good thing when were at a time of war and there are extreme hostilities across the world?

    January 13, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  5. RM, Bethesda, MD

    I see all of Bob Johnson's billions still can't by him half a brain. He does not speak for the black community and has never done anything to help the black community. It just goes to show the level of pychological damage black people suffer from - this is black on black crime.

    January 13, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  6. Clyde, TX

    Bob Jonhson's comments will just help Obama. Obama has been sincere about his past. And all these divisive speeches from the Clinton's campaign will only propelled Obama as he preaches Unity in this nation.

    January 13, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  7. Sam Jr.

    oh! Pleazzzzeee!

    Republicans would love to see Obama win the primaries so that they can nail him in the presidential elections.


    Everyone else who votes based on what they want to hear is in a dream land.

    Obama lacks the experience and voting for him would only make the republicans win the 2008 elections!! And his use of drugs will be used against him!! What else do you think they would do?

    And Why else would a republican governor (SC) ask ppl to consider voting of Obama????

    I don't know how people can be carried away by a smooth talking Obama. But then I have to remind myself that Bush was voted in to power - TWICE!!

    January 13, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  8. Craig

    Bill's wife is on Meet The Press today and asking for a clean campaign, not several hours later she and her buddies are at it again with Obama. Nothing changes with the Clinton's as they will do anything to win.

    January 13, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  9. Felecia

    Just an fyi ppl I had every intention on voting H.C but then I statrted listening to B.O and what he stood for. Sure yes as we get closer to voting only each of us can cast our vote for the one we think will repersent our country. Yes each side has made nasty comments but when a man steps up an say hey I made a mistake as a teenager's heck we forgive DWI's, Murder's then why can't we respect this man and what he did when he was young? I'm against illegal's, Drug Dealer's(black,white,blue), Murder's etc....I didn't like the fact thta H.C willing to do nothing about the illegals in our country especialy when 1 hit and run killed my cuz..when I have to pay in state tution for my collgege children and you may have to pay double that for out of state tution sure your child decided to go outside of their state for collgege but yet they want to offer in state tution to illegal's..I want someone who will fight for me and my citzen's of USA instead of the illegals..I want the bad ppl, their drugs off the streets, I want to know that social security will be therewhen I retire..Sure we seem with Bush that there an't no GTD's but at least we can get someone who will fight for us!

    January 13, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  10. Jake, Brussels, BELGIUM

    Why should this not be an issue? It's a serious question of character and decision-making ability.

    By the way, those of you on this board that call Obama a candidate of the middle are delusional. If we're not allowed to look at people's character, such as McCain's and Giuliani's adultery and Clinton's myriad scandals and Edwards' love child, can we at least look at the records and agree that Obama has consistently supported hard left causes?

    January 13, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  11. Joe

    Hillary = Karl Rove

    January 13, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  12. Matt

    You are a real prize Hillary. Your lying to the American people "pothead", "Sex addicted" disbarred and impeached husband spent all week trash talking Obama. And you both got called racists for that. So what do you do this week. Get a black man to say the same crap as last week so you feel like it is shield protecting you.

    Guess what? That makes you a even bigger racist then you were last week.

    Have you no shame? Ohh wait your a Clinton. Never mind.

    Anybody but Clinton

    January 13, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  13. Ann Kuminns

    One would think that we, as a country would have had more than enough of a "divider". HRC is more of a divider than GW is, or would be. How can any sane person vote for her?? Nominating her would be like handing the presidency to a republican even without an election. At your own peril, folks – that's what it is amounting to. Come on all you leaders of the Democrats. SPEAK UP now or ve prepared to see your party do down forever. Stop this viciousness and pettiness of self-destruction by the Clintons. You leaders should speak out loud and clear otherwise you risk many of your party members flocking over to the republicans. Stop it before it is too late!!

    January 13, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  14. Dave

    If Clinton gets the nomination I'm voting for Bloomberg.


    January 13, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  15. Steeve ATL

    The Clinton's lie. Then lie about lying. Then have their hangers on lie about their lying. I am so sick of these two. Anybody But Hillary!!!!!!!!

    January 13, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |

    TO JAKE:

    "Clinton's myriad scandals"

    I'm confused. Are you referring to scandals by Hillary? Because last I looked, Bill isn't running!

    January 13, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  17. Case. VA

    Why should anyone listen to Bob Johnson, on this matter. He made his billions denigrating the image of Black women by promoting cheap "booty videos" on his shameful network. As an black man under 30 I can tell you his network did plenty of damage. Now we should listen as a rips the only candidate in the Democratic race bringing youth and lay people into the party and the political process. The Clintons are starting a "Scorched Earth" campaign...saying its them or no one will be left standing.

    January 13, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Not only is Hillary's campaign degrading her position as an icon, they are erasing the positive work that Bill did in his time.

    If not for Hillary's sake, then for the sake of Bill's legacy, please don't stoop so low.

    Today, I am a Democrat with a heavy heart .

    January 13, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  19. True say

    You know the true leader when you see one (Obama) Good luck you are Honest Person its not rocket science to run a country once you have gift of leading and putting people on the right position to get the job done...

    January 13, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  20. Oregon

    Hillary wins, I vote Repub for the first time in my life.

    This is just shocking to me.

    And disgusting.

    January 13, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  21. Christine Atlanta, Ga.

    So Senator Obama is now playing the race card. I see that as having far fling consequences. He may win South Carolina on that rhetoric, but it will cost him in other states. Especially as he portrays himself as the 'uniter'.

    January 13, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  22. Ms. M

    Sounds like a lot of Obama supporters here – Hillary, I'm in your corner! And yes, I am black!

    January 13, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  23. Marvin, Dallas, TX

    What is really interesting is how in this blog, you have managed to write every single thing bad thing ever said about Obama. All stemming from the original comment that Bob said was taken out of context. You have used it to repeat those negative comments. You happy now?, Ready to smoke a cigarette? No one falls for this in blog world. We already heard all that.

    January 13, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  24. Virginia in NC

    Bob Johnson had an opinion and voiced it. What was wrong with that? Free county right? However, if you will read the article again the part some of you have taken offense to is what his comment was "interpreted " to mean by a writer/reporter..... Which by the way Johnson responded to.

    How is it that no one can ask a probative question or speak uncomplimentary of Obama without folks throwing up their hands....running off and screaming about who they will not vote for. Someone is trying hard to keep this vitriolic exchange going. Some of you are ensuring their success. I listen and watch carefully and contend the Clinton camp is not the one "throwing the rock and hiding the hand". Please people be informed voters and do your countrymen a favor also and be an informed poster.

    January 13, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  25. jessica

    i'm sorry, this doesn't make any sense. how can anyone even imagine that johnson was speaking to obama's community organizing and not his drug use. his sentence would then lack any impact, as it would be an attempt to compare the clintons' "deep" involvment in black issues with obama's time as a community organizer in a black community on the south side of chicago. what contrast is that? he was talking about his past drug use and that is that. and it's abominable to think that bill clinton can smoke pot and be loved but obama can't.

    January 13, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
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