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. Ellie, Ca

    So Bob Johnson makes a comment about Barack Obama and y'all come down on Hillary like a pack of wolves. My God! She didn't make the comment. But that doesn't matter to Obama supporters who are now feeling desperate after Hillary's win in New Hampshire. And it WAS a win, even though a lot of you said it was a win for Obama. (Go figure.) Bottom line: Obama, Obama's campaign, and Obama's supporters will say anything and do anything to win. Thankfully, masses of people are seeing through their distortions of Hillary's words and deeds, and at Obama's lack of substance and experience, and beginning to seeing him for what he is: not ready and not fit for the presidency.

    January 13, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  2. Ardelia, TX

    This is why Hillary is losing this race. Just because black have called her on her ill choice of words she is the one that injected race. She is a politician, status quo, same ole, same ole.

    January 13, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |



    January 13, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  4. chuck

    Anyone who saw the clip knows what Mr. Johnson was referring to. I can't imagine he would denigrate Obama's work as a community organizer. It was clear it was a drug reference.

    Until very recently, I was committed to supporting the Democratic candidate in the election but Hillary is really making me rethink that. Perhaps I'll change my mind in November, but I'm honestly not sure I could vote for Clinton right now.

    January 13, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  5. Derek, Walpole NH

    Does no one else notice the phrase "the future presidential candidate" in this article? As Obama's candidacy is either inevitable or already seized? Way to go CNN, another biased "news" article!

    January 13, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  6. cole

    matti January 13, 2008 4:25 pm ET

    Media, Obama and some others are crossing the line saying that Clintons are racist. You can say other things if you want, but not this. I am happy not all African Americans are buying this low propaganda. Give them credit for what they did right. Hillary was always supportive of civil right movement since she was a student, and Bill Clinton was not called the 'black president' for nothing. I am happy they stand against insinuations from.. whoever.. I want to know what Obama did for the black community other than being half black.

    Let me point something out to you matti or whatever you call yourself this a period for people like you to stop blaming white people for your problems but when a black man stands up to change that all you could say is he has never done anything for black community let me ask you what do you think he is doing running for president. For your information he is trying to united this country and and give hope to you ungrateful fool.
    Maybe you should look into how the clintons won the last election in new hamshire,hillary won the votes counted by the machines and obama won all counted by hand. Hillary rigged the the election cause if they lose to obama it will be a big shame to the clinton power house and if we as black community do not come together and surpport obama then we are doomed.
    GO OBAMA i am not american but i wish he wins cause he will bring the whole world together .He can also get cheap oil from african countries for americans that way america do not need to rely on mid east only.
    Wake americans you have a chance to make the world a better place again

    January 13, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  7. Mark C. Eades

    In the bipartisan battle of "experience" vs. "change," one thing seems clear: There is no shortage of experience in Washington. If Washington experience came by the dozen, it would be a dime a dozen. Washington experience is rarely what brings change, but is all too often precisely what prevents it. Washington experience fills our hearts and minds not with courage or hope but with fear. Washington experience does not say "Yes We Can" but "No We Can't." Washington experience is what has led us into the foreign and domestic mess we're in today. What we are short of in Washington is not experience but fresh ideas and unifying vision. Put a president with these in the White House, and all that Washington experience can be put to work taking America in a new direction. This is why I support Barack Obama for president.

    January 13, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  8. joe

    right on nate!!

    January 13, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  9. free

    I think Hillary just lost the black vote if she is the nominee in November. And by the way- who is Bob Johnson to be raising character issues ! His network has made millions making by African-Americans look like buffoons.-- who's he kidding ? The fact is Hillary and her surrogates have said some rather alarming comments with racial overtones about Obama. Now that black voters have caught on to their mess-they're now pointing fingers. Own-up, and take responsibility for your actions, Sen. Clinton. The truth is this story starting coming to light when the blogs and black elected officials started raising the issue. So is Sen. Clinton calling black people liars? You know, for too long the black community have allowed themselves to be taken for granted by the Clintons.

    NY SUN article: http://www.nysun.com/article/69242

    January 13, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |


    January 13, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  11. Ricardo Malbrew

    In my opinion, Mr. Johnson is an insult to the black community. Granted, he is a billionaire and some part of me wants to cheer him for such an accomplishment-especially in the United States.

    However, Mr. Johnson is very short-sighted about Senator Barack Obama who comes from our community, worked in our community, represents our community and needs our community support for his quest for the nations highest office.

    And while Mr. Johnson's comment on Senator Obama's once-in-a-lifetime inhale of marijuana or whatever substance (Obama repeated states that he is not proud of) he forgets that the person he supports for the presidency, Senator Hillary Clinton-her husband, a former President Bill Clinton, forgot to.

    Ricardo Malbrew

    January 13, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  12. Right to Know

    The people have a right to make know and make judgments based on a Presidential candidates respective backgrounds accordingly.

    January 13, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  13. Sylvia

    HILLARY has demonstrated she is a STRONG woman that can take many hits and continue standing. OBAMA has demonstrated with every hit thrown his way to be a COWARD and whimper away!!!

    January 13, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  14. Josh

    This is exactly why 50% of the nation would never vote for Hillary! She is divided the Democratic party and she would divide the nation!

    January 13, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  15. Mandy

    What I find amusing is the fact that I've seen so many people change their mind from voting Hillary to voting Obama instead, but NEVER the other way around.

    Wonder why. "Once an Obama fan, always an Obama fan"?

    January 13, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  16. bruno.sako

    Well Well another attack from the Clinton`s Campaign.
    I am now sure Sen Hilary is not ready to be the next president of the USA.
    she doesn`t get it.
    I truly believe this campaign is only base on Sen Obama record.
    do you think I will vote for someone like Hilary? I don`t think so
    this is realy lack of intergrity and lack of respect.
    I truly believe they are making fun out of Sen Obama.but at the end,he will be the one winning not her.
    Well Hilary you keep on doing what you are doing.
    Bruno Sako

    January 13, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  17. Dana Palethorpe

    Barock did nothing wrong nobodys pefect did he take money from special intrest if you do that your not worth voting for you would just be another problem the USA has that nobody cares about dealing with

    January 13, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  18. Roz, Maryland

    I'm very disappointed with Bob's comments. I have much respect for anyone who has experienced real life and was able to turn things around. Obama was honest about his youthful experiences and he has and continues to make a positive contribution to American. Johnson owes Obama a public apology. Let's see if he's man enough to do so. He certainly wasn't man enough to apologize to Tavis.

    January 13, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  19. Tina, S.C

    As with Fox, CNN will headline Obama introduces stimulus plan. THIS IS GREAT, but they will speak possitive about him doing so. With Senator Clinton they headlined Hillary like husband stimulus plan paid for by National Debt. C'mon Lou Dobbs has been on for 45 minutes and i have heard him talk about several canadates. Mostly possitive. Everything he has said about Senator Clinton which has been about 35 minutes of his show has been very bad.

    The Good Ole Boys can keep slaming, but if Senator Clinton says anything Neg. she is attacked by a PACK OF WOLVES, (Obama, Edwards, The Republicans, and the MEDIA, (who should be nutrial)). They all are trying to display their sexestism quitly but it is SHOWING VERY CLEARLY.

    January 13, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  20. Truthfully

    I am black and if I say hi to Bob Johnson, he'd ignore me.

    If I say hi to Barack Obama, he'd say hi and ask me how am I doing.

    I am not poor yet Bob Johnson would treat me like I am nothing. I lived in Chicago and Bob's office on North Michigan Ave.... not in a black community.

    I can see why Bob treated Barack the way he did to me. So I want to vote anyone who treats me like I am VIP. Its OBAMA!

    GO OBAMA! GO OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!

    January 13, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  21. Matt

    So he's claiming that Obama wasn't "doing anything" when he was working as a community organizer in black neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago?

    They are absolutely lying. Johnson was most certainly referring to Obama's drug use, and they should be ashamed.

    At least Obama is willing to be honest with the American People. The Clintons, obsessed with power, have never been honest with America.

    January 13, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  22. timothy

    We are not stupid ...do not spin it ....I did have a lot of respect and admiration for President Clinton but not anymore ......never had any respect for Hillary hence she did not loose anything ...fairy tale or not the voters will decide and whatever the outcome this country will never be the same and Obama has won already ...we are now more informed because of him.
    How much experience do you really need to run a goverment ...it all depends on whom you sorround yourself with...do not worry Mr. Johnson...you will still keep your BET license and keep poisoning our youths with the hopeless hip hop music ...and try to tear down an exemplanary man with great extraordinary achievements......do not worry you get to keep your hand me downs from the Clintons .
    I have just nullify your vote because I will vote for Obama...I believe what comes out of BET destroys the black community than any past drug Obama used ......afterall he became educated.....your programs destroys them. .
    Stay focused Obama ...all these are distractions and time wasters ......keep them panicking and damage controlling as you are doing .

    January 13, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  23. Joseph

    For the past week, Obama supporters – including campaign staff – have been spinning these implications that Hillary is racist. Obama of course is nowhere to be found . . . he's out sprinking fairy dust around talking about believing in ourselves and spinning a new tale in American politics with the "Yes we Can" chorus.

    Now Hillary strikes back at the totally unwarranted attacks, and he brushes it all off as politics as normal – that he of course rejects – while his supporters equate her to Karl Rove.

    Talk about a double-standard. I used to think I'd support whoever is the Democratic candidate but there is no way I would vote for Obama at this point.

    He seems to always be absent or away from his desk when any actual leadership is needed.

    January 13, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  24. JACK, NY, NY

    Pon Mao- my family hardly even voted in the past. I am making everyone in family circle to vote so that is 18 vote for Hillary. Keep your two votes for ABC.
    January 13, 2008 6:40 pm ET

    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 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  25. James springfield mo

    I never voted bill, But i will vote for hillary and please you media wont unless the drug use was by hillary,They spent 800 million cold hard cash on the clintons lets just see what would happen if 800 million was spent on obama he would'nt make lets face the truth Obama is just a lier.

    January 13, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
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