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. Josh, Chicago, Il


    I"m offended Obama would play the race card, and I'm offended Obama
    would pander to homophobic black evangelists by associated with "ex-gay" evangelist Donnie Mcclurkin.

    Clinton 08!!!

    January 13, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  2. bubbaranks

    Anyone who brings up someone's past stuff like this (drug use) is just in a panic.

    Let's not forget our current president was/is an alcoholic and a coke-head. I'm not saying he's doing a good job--believe me--but it means that someone who did things like that in their past is only human. I'm sure Hillary wouldn't check out 'clean' from her past either...everyone was young once and did things that they wouldn't necessarily do now.

    If Obama learned from his mistakes then that gives him experience and knowledge. I'd rather have a human elected to office than someone who didn't experience life.

    January 13, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  3. OBAMA MAMA Twin Cities, MN

    Are you kidding me!!! Obama is smearing Hillary!!! What a joke. Obamas people never called them a racist! This is just hillary crying again. I used to support hillary and it's times like this when i'm so glad i saw the light. The only people calling billary a racist are the millions of people who heard your dumb and out of touch comments about MLK and americas "fairy tale". If you're going to cry about this just wait till the Rep get a hold of you billary then you will have a reason to cry with a record like yours.

    Johnson is no better. He's a "step and fetch it negro" who has no business opening his mouth about drug use when that is all you see on BET. I can't watch it or let my kids watch it because it's so bad. Johnson must think we (the african-american community and others) are as stupid as he sounds. I used to have respect for bill clinton but that has changed too.

    Everytime they open their mouth (or let one of their supporters do it) they dig themselves in deeper. On second thought, billary keep talking........

    OBAMA 08!!!!

    January 13, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  4. BV

    "So Senator Obama is now playing the race card."
    Hillary's been playing the Gender card since the day after Iowa. And when has Obama himself brought up his blackness as an issue? Your ROOTS are showing Georgia.

    January 13, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  5. Ann

    Christine Atlanta, GA

    I suppose Obama should run like the Clintons and say "CLINTON COUNTRY"? Yeah that's a great way to united everyone. The crying game was certaintly playing the female card. Give me a break!

    January 13, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  6. Jim G. Bethlehem,pa

    Are you guys this pathetically hard up for news. A Clinton supporter might have raised the issue?? Is Chris Matthews writing for you now..God, you're getting as bad as Fox!

    January 13, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  7. Jim

    Obama = Karl Rove and Republicans. He has yet to win with the Democratic vote. The party he states that he is.

    January 13, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  8. Nando

    past is past... don't be prison with the past... Obama is the right man to be a president of US. dont be a hater, be appricater..... thnks

    January 13, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  9. Ethel

    Hillary Clinton is playing the race card. She could not get Obama to stay out of this election season now she is going to try to take him down at any cost. It does not matter to her if she tears the democratic party about. It is all about Hillary and Bill. It is not about what is best for this country.. They do not care about this country. All they care about is what they want.

    January 13, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  10. Kojo

    Let the fairy tale continue. Obama is just but a dreamer. Go Hill !!!

    January 13, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  11. Truethis

    Johnson you a disgrace to black people to stoop this low. And for the one who think that if Obama become the Democratic nominee then the Republican going to after him more. Think: the Republican have been using religion and moral values and being against gays. When all last year some on the Republican in congress wasn't who they say they were. So bring it.

    January 13, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  12. Lisa

    Rey-Rey January 13, 2008 4:29 pm ET

    Wait a minute!
    A guy who is somehow connected with BET chastising a man for being upfront about his drug use in the past?
    Who the hell are you to talk! Your crap station constantly toasts the gangstah-schtick…
    You made/make your bling money off that…
    Jive-turkey fool…

    A very good point!!! Why doesn't BET have any quality Black programing?

    January 13, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  13. Jose Kissimmee, FL

    Obama may trick most of the youth with his words but not this one. Even the republicans love him... Hello, They're the ones who destroyed this country and they want YOU to vote for obama... Yeah, better kill me first.

    18, male, & Puerto Rican for Hillary.

    January 13, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  14. Sharon in FL

    Obama's drug use is ABSOLUTELY fair game. Obama is the one who keeps playing the race card. In fact, I have a friend, who is an Obama supporter, who insists no one can swift-boat Obama "because he's black" and he'll call them racist. Being black does not make Obama a Teflon candidate.

    January 13, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  15. Tina, S.C

    Obama supporters are really ruthless, sounds like Bush My way or no way tactics No more Bush, No to Obama!!

    Go "HILLARY" 2008

    January 13, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  16. amj


    January 13, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  17. S Carey, Sacramento, CA

    It surely seems that Hillary and Bill simply are incapable of thinking before they speak - and that is hardly a "good thing" in a Presidential family. Let's get real - Obama and Edwards have been, are and continue to be exceptionally credible and the VERY BEST THING that could come of all of this nonsense would be for the two of them to emerge as our ticket in the 2008 election. Hillary, I am sorry, babe - I wanted like the dickens to be able to support you - unfortunately, I just can't trust you, your instincts or or your judgment.

    January 13, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  18. xtina chicago IL

    People wonder why we don't get a good President. Why not discuss the accomplishments these candidates have made instead of the all the tabloid drama stuff.
    Now what has Hillary done for the people of New york? What has Obama done for Illinois? Any of their supporters care to give a short summary of their qualifications to convince readers? Thank you.

    January 13, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  19. Linda

    Do you people want to keep your eyes shut and ears closed to any criticism of Obama? It's better to find out everything about the candidates now than when they are elected President and have to live with it for 4 or 8 more years.

    January 13, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  20. Sue

    this is exactly why i will vote for Obama in the primaries. This is getting UGLY–I'm tired of the Clinton's, I'm sick of their political machine and the expectation that Hillary "deserves" to be president.

    This sounds like something the Republicans would pull.

    So what if Obama committed a youthful indiscretion, admitted it, came clean, and succeeded in his completing his education and embarking on a political career? He's an upstanding, honest man--10,000,000x more than Bill ever was.

    I don't trust the Clinton's.

    January 13, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  21. Joe Lockheed

    Johnson, BET founder, represents the worst in the history of black struggle and aspirations.He like a few have allowed themselves to be bought and used by Hillary to destroy a fellow black brother, who whose only crime is to "stand up for change for all Americans" and consistently condemned the "politics of personal attacks". By using a black brother(Johnson) to discredit another black brother(Obama), that is racism at worst and ugliest form.
    Let's address this persistent "Clinton curse" amongst some few misled blacks. The central question that begs to be answered is this: what is the one thing, one legislation,one black issue the Clintons have done for the black community?. Nothing. Not one legislation, not one cause or issue that really mattered to Black America. So this "blind loyalty" is nothing but being sold cheap by the Clintons who have made a career of feeding on black sufferings and fears!!!.
    Well, the white women in New Hampshire stood with their kind for some little crocdile tears. what would it take for the few black folks to realise that the history of the sacrifices and sufferings of the black man will "finally find closure" by supporting the only candidate who will realise the dreams of Martin Luther King. A man who believes and stands for change, hope and unity of all races!!!.
    Constrast this to a woman who nothing but a polorizer, divider of black against a black. A woman who had eight years in the Whitehouse but achieved nothing important to the black community or the poor folks. But now is selling her failures in universal health care in the whitehouse and Congress as "experience of success" and will be ready in day one to turn America around. What a fairy tale but for those of us who are old enough, we are not fooled!!.She got undeserving presidential pardon for her bother from Bill Clinton but nothing for the thousand of blacks accused and jailed unjustly.Talk about taking care of your own, Hillary is a star. So how did we come to this sorry state, where a white woman, who never been a single mom nor lived in the neighborhood, stands before you preaching she is a better candidate than the son of a single mom, to bring change and relief to our single black moms.That smugs of mockery and defies the black imagination and that 's why I think she not being sincere and straight with you black folks!!.

    January 13, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  22. Nate

    I wish people could make opinions without feeling like they have to state their race. It doesn't matter and holds no weight.

    January 13, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  23. Thomas

    Is this the kind of president you want, America? We've already had seven years of Karl Rove mudslinging. You want four more?

    If Hillary acts this way now, how about if she was to become president?

    Her husband admitted experimenting with pot (but claims he didn't inhale), he tried to redefine the word "is", he chased a myriad of women during his terms as president and governor, and he was impeached for lying under oath.

    How is it that Hillary can bash anyone else for being honest about past drug use? What has Hillary herself not been honest about? Think she is that clean?

    And how about her campaign staffer getting busted for aggravated DWI? Her sandbox isn't nearly as clean as she would try to have the public believe.

    January 13, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  24. Pon Mao

    I really like that term: vote ABC (Anyone but Clinton). There are definitely at least 2 votes from my household for the ABC candidate.

    January 13, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  25. Dara

    What a bunch of idiots! Obama's prior drug use is ONE factor that WILL keep him from winning. It's doesn't matter how long ago he used, the fact is HE SOLD DRUGS and ADMITS it in writing. He needs to prove himself further than his unity campaign. While Obama had "talks with teens" to avoid drug use, Hillary has been instrumental helping FAMILIES deal with it's tragedies, formed programs designed for children with developmental disabilities, directly supported the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and the list goes on an on. THAT's why she has so many supporters, because they not only SEE past the anit-Hillary rhetoric, millions have directly benefited from her efforts, dedication and accomplishments. Obama is a great speaker, he's charismatic – but it takes more than being a "likable guy" to be the President. He's just not there yet, maybe in term or two. Yes, his book has made recent headlines. However, Hillary’s Wrote best selling 1996 book It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us – have you read her book? Furthermore, she donated all of the proceeds to charitable organizations…not to fund her Presidential campaign. Many statements here are just unbelievable, just come out and say we're not voting for Hillary because she's a woman and we've been brainwashed from birth (male and females) to keep any woman from being the President of the US? God forbid we elect a woman to clean up a man's mess....Oh, wait a minute, that makes too much sense!!! Will just go ahead and vote in the typical middle-aged white man and while he’s rolling his baby blue eye’s toward heaven and clinching a bible. Put Obama in as the Democratic candidate, and THAT’S exactly what you’ll get…another Bush.

    January 13, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 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