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. Karl

    I dont get it....????? If he is the founder of BET then why isnt his pants hanging off of him?? Why don't he have a big diamond chain?? Its funny how I used to love BET as i was younger and now I dont even watch that garbage. And I am an African American young man that JUSTED turned 18. The stuff I (and ALL others I know) learned for that channel, i have seen nowhere else. I will not vote for Hillary no matter what!!

    January 13, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  2. Linda, Chandler AZ

    I will NEVER vote for Hillary Clinton.

    January 13, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  3. Ibeam

    I'm African American...I will never again support Johnson or any business that he owns. I can not believe all the African American leaders that are selling their souls to the devil for pieces of Gold. I'm truly sorry.... No wonder the community is in such horrible shape. We have self serving people calling themselves "our leaders" for their own gain and profit. Now she has a brought and paid for black man doing her dirty work. Johnson, you are a fool. I will be clear...MLK would be ashamed of you...I'm ashamed of you...
    I can not stand by and accept this any more.....We need really leaders like Colin Powell and Barak Obama....Not because they are black ..but because they are great leaders whom speak truth to all and represent all people. Responsible black leaders in the Clinton camp must get her to stop this madness. If you do not.. I will not support any of you for public office again.

    Clinton will never recieve my vote... I'm so tried of your brand of politics...I will vote for anyone but you....

    January 13, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  4. Tyler

    How is Obama supposed to unite Dems and Republicans when he is more republican than Hillary Clinton? Just got done reading some of his stances on issues...he wants to increase wages, which sounds great, but its not when you consider that will only add to our nation's crazy inflation rate.

    January 13, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  5. Aristocat

    What a liar!

    Of course he was referring to drug use; why else would he say "...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..."?

    And now, rather than admit it was a stupid thing to say, he denies it.

    Like Bill and his 'fairy tale' comment, the Clinton campaign tries again to recast dumb comments in a more positive light. They think we're idiots.

    January 13, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  6. chevy k

    I can't believe the Clinton Campaign is taking such negative attitude, This should clearly send a strong message to the voters the clintons are nothing than bare democrats, Obama is the man who is going unite this country.

    January 13, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  7. Aaron M.

    He was talking about Obama's community organizing???? HA HA HA HA HA!!!

    Hoe dumb does she think we are? The Clinton's really are dirty, dirty politicians. I can't believe a single word that comes out of her mouth. I am a Democrat, but I will NEVER vote for her.

    Let's all vote for a little change in this country, no more dynasties.

    January 13, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  8. Mary

    I'm a lifelong democrat and I can't bear Hillary. If she gets this nomination, it's going to be my first Republican vote (if McCain is the nominee) or non-vote (if it's one of the others).

    For those of you who think it's the Obama campaign spreading this, don't be idiots. Read the paper. Watch the TV. Hillary made her ill-advised comments on live TV. Rep Clyburn responded with chagrin in a column in the NY Times shortly afterwards, as did many other (former?) supporters of the Clintons. It was a huge 'open mouth insert foot' moment for her and she should simply have said 'doh! I misspoke ... I'm sorry ... here's what I meant.' And leave it at that ... without pointing the finger for her mistake at her rival. But as we all well know, no Clinton ever takes responsiblity for anything. They don't inhale. They don't have sex with 'that woman.' When they're finally caught they try to explain that it wasn't REALLY sex. And Hillary - despite a lifetime of being cheated on with bimbos tries to persuade us that she didn't know about it and was fooled yet again (sure she was). Either shes a liar or gullible ... neither of which are particularly desireable traits for the presidency.

    January 13, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  9. Cheryl Oxnard Ca

    For Bob Johnson to Lie for Clinton is beneath me. I know he wants her to win,but to put his reputation on the line for an out and out lie for Hillary. What He thinks African Americans can not watch a video and see Hillary saying those words. Obama did not have a gun to her head when she dissed MLK. Those were words that came out of her mouth. Now she is trying to lie and say Obama is changing what he said. Obama did not speak about what she said because he did not want to get in the middle of it. The Clintons are trying to tear America about no matter what the cost is.

    January 13, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  10. SecondSage

    I'm officially for Obama. Hilary's dirty tactics (then try to back track) should've been saved for the republicans. Barack is running a crystal clean campaign. The Clintons are stuck in 1992 when they had to mud sling with the best of them Bush. Maybe they should return to that time.

    Robert Johnson is a sellout along with John Lewis, the old guard is over with. BET is a buffoon channel. And if he ran it for his people instead of money he'd still own it. Now viacom is ruining it further.

    Obama is cleverly trying to keep race out of it. The Clintons thought they had a pass with blacks. Welcome to the wake up call.

    IF Obama is not nominated, I hope Ron Paul is.

    January 13, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |

    hillary suck and obama is the man. More blacks have been locked up under clinton then even bush. OBAMA 08

    January 13, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  12. Kat, Huntington, West Virginia

    to adultry and lies,
    You do know that it is Hillary and NOT Bill that is running for president right?! As far as I know it was Bill and not Hillary who had an affair-not that it is any of my business either way. I am constantly astounded by those who hate Hillary because her husband had an affair and she decided to keep her family together. Curious! Unreasonable and illogical and VERY curious!

    January 13, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  13. shaun

    Dr. king would be ashamed of the man sitting next to hillary clinton because his channel B.E.T makes money off of degrading the people it cators to which are young black youth. Almost every show on b.e.t is tastless. Women are only displayed as sex objects and the young black males are taught that being some ole stupid thug is
    the way to go. As for hillary, you are reaching so low to get the nomination that you'll except any black face to support you, but what will make it sad is if blacks buy into it. As a black man I would see that as my people being insanely dum.

    January 13, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  14. Gregory, NYC

    I will never vote for Hillary no matter what. It is a matter of principle and I am really starting to see why half the country hates this woman so much. Obama will be the next president and when he is elected I hope the Clintons are NEVER invited to the White House.

    OBAMA-POWELL 08!!!

    January 13, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  15. Ed,Ellenville,New York

    The Obama supporters have turned into spoilers for the democratic party. How come they all want to vote against democrats they don't like? Obama needs to crack down on these unsavory tactics of his supporters. He swore to back the winner,no matter who it was. Real democrats back the platform,not just the flagbearer. I don't hear any Edwards or Clinton supporters claiming they'd vote against Obama. Maybe we should be asking Obama if he's planning a third party run? Americans aren't going to follow a backstabber.

    January 13, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  16. DAVMON

    As a poor white male, why vote when I not fortunate enough like the Chelsea Clinton, so I am voting Obama 08.

    January 13, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  17. greg

    It's bad enough that Johnson made the comment, but his later attempt to say it was referring to something other than drug use added outright lying to his attack. And Hillary said nothing, even though she is acutely aware of what Johnson was saying.
    This is a perfect example of what we can expect of Hillary – MORE OF THE SAME lying, conniving, "do-or-say anything to get to the top" attitude that so frustrates the average American who has become disgusted with the political process.
    Just like her husband Bill who went for the jugular the day before NH with his 'Obama fairy tale' comments and Hillary's disparaging Martin Luther King – then, the day after they won the election they were all full of explanations of how that is not what they really meant. Do they think we're that stupid?
    The Clinton strategy is simple: DO OR SAY ANYTHING to win, then, after winning, backtrack on all the garbage they spew and act friendly and magnaminous.
    Bill and Hillary Clinton are political pit bulls, and if elected, we will see eight more years of divisiveness in our country.

    January 13, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  18. Andy, New York, New York

    Hillary Clinton, 6-6-6, is the forerunner to the anti-Christ!

    She will stop at nothing until she decives men and women into believing she is the ANSWER America is looking for.

    With her choking up performance, an act she learned from Hollywood script writer friends who prepped Bill for that now infamous TV piece, "I did not have sex with that woman!", she managed to get many in New Hampshire to believe her.

    And like she used them, and like she used us New Yorkers to make her White House run, she is now set to go after others in other states. When she is sure she has enough believers in her vice-like, anaconda constriction, then she will bare her fangs, sinking them into her hapless victims, and then inject her venom into their blood stream until they start changing color and die.

    This woman is the epitome of destruction. No good can come from her. For all her talk about her and her husband being supporters of Blacks, the acid test to prove this came when Obama decided to run for President. It was now their turn to prove they are for Blacks by supporting Obama.

    Instead, one week after Obama announced his candidacy, Hillary announced hers, setting out to block a Black man from becoming President. She already had eight years in the White House; a Black man never ran the White House, and this is how she proves she and her husband are friends of Blacks – by denying a highly popular and likeable Black candidate from making true change happen.

    The Democratic Party, like the Republican Party, is an all-white club; no room for Blacks, except at the lower rung of the club's social ladder.

    I'm praying that God gives America an epiphany about the evil that is Hillary Rodham Clinton!

    If Obama is not gonna be the Dems presidential candidate, vote Republican if Hillary is! We can do better than this communist devil!

    January 13, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  19. Tyler

    Oregon January 13, 2008 6:18 pm ET

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

    This is just shocking to me.

    And disgusting.

    If you think this is disgusting then wait until the Republicans start attacking the democratic candidate and dems as a whole...its MUCH worse than this. Whats really shocking is how Obama's campaign thinks they can avoid the tough questions and win the nomination. If he wins the nomination then we get another Republican president for sure.

    January 13, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  20. v.ananthan

    Obama is playing the "victim" card and its much worse than "crying". Obama will be trying even harder in the future to play "dirty tricks" to get sympathy in this manner..
    Stand up Obama and if you loose the nomination, loose like a man...

    January 13, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  21. TexanforHillary

    Just the facts Jack.
    He admits to using drugs- cocaine and marijuana- pick up a copy of his book. It is what it is..... why denigrate someone for telling the truth?

    Oh- and he is not "black"
    he is bi-racial.

    Si se puede

    January 13, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  22. 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 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  23. JC Graham, St. Petersburg, FL

    Ha! Those of you who find it infuriating that his drug use would be mentioned crack me up. What kind of Utopia do you live in? This is politics where everything they have ever done is open to scrutiny....and if your opponent has a history of drug use why the heck wouldn't you bring it up?

    January 13, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  24. Obama Camp

    Look at the way CNN made Senator Clinton look as if she was happy that Bob Johnson was Talking about Obama's drug use. You know he put it out there for all of our youth to see. My son the other day argued with me about pot smoking. He said Obama said it helped him and he is running for President. Obama you could have used a different set of words, but know your comments are out there for our youth. I have wrote Mr. Obama, called his senate office,, e-mailed his web site, EVERYTHING I COULD THINK OF TO LET SENATOR OBAMA SEE HOW CHILDREN ARE INTERPETING HIS WORDS> HE WILL NOT RESPOND> HE WILL NOT LISTEN> IF ONE CHILD TURNS TO DRUGS BECAUSE OF HIS WORDS THEN HIS POLITICAL CAREER WILL BE JINKSED YOU CAN NOT USE OUR YOUTH AND TURN THEM TOWARDS DRUGS AND GET ELECTED TO THE PRESIDENCEY OF THE UNITED STATES.


    January 13, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  25. Lawdog90

    Primarily, it is offensive that politicians attend predominantly black churches and drag this junk in with them! Worship to God is creative and is expressed in many ways, but there is no way that the buffoonery of this instance honors God.

    Secondarily, Bob Johnson has no credibility on civil rights and black issues. Whether the Clintons put him up to it, or not, as the man who perpetuated, abused, and profited from the caricatures and stereotypes of black men and women as the founder and owner of BET, he is in no position to criticize Obama or purport to speak in defense of anyone's civil rights record (as tenuous as that record might be).

    Finally, don't blame the Clintons for this incident. Bob Johnson is a billionaire adult. If the Clintons asked him to do this today, he is responsible for saying "no." Fact is, JOHNSON SAID WHAT HE SAID, and HE SAID IT WHERE HE SAID IT, and THAT'S OFFENSIVE!!

    Go John Edwards!

    January 13, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
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