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. BERT

    How in the world can Johnson say anything to anyone. He turned BET into a trashy television station that degraded ALL Americans. Now he sits up there like we care what he thinks. He should just come to Charlotte and fix the mess he has made with the Bobcats. He certainly made a mess of BET.

    January 13, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  2. karol

    Does anyone know the lengths this woman would go just be elected if attacking other candidates? I like that smile after depression in NH but I surely not voting for her!

    January 13, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  3. teddy orlando fl

    shame on you sir ii say again shame on you!!!!

    January 13, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  4. Gebra

    Hillary would do anything to get elected even distorting other people's records!

    January 13, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  5. Shawn

    It's about time that someone stands up and tells Obama how it is. The Clintons have a long and steady record of HELPING the black community in America. Barak Obama's claim to the black vote is that he is, obviously, black! I don't think the African American community in America will be fooled by Obama's charismatic appeals. These are tough times in America. People are struggling with money and a host of domestic problems. What we need now is a leader who has been responsible and has made a life of helping others.

    Let's try to keep the criticism of Hillary based on fact. She didn't make these comments... they were made by a very prominent member of the black community. I don't think he's anyone's puppet here. It's funny but a lot of black people feel the same way about Obama. As this election season continues on I have a sense that we'll see the Obama camp trying to divide people more than Hillary. At least she looks at people and sees their issues and ways to help them. Obama looks at them and sees their skin color and uses that to legitimize his attitude that the black vote for him ought to be compulsory. Wake up people! Obama may be a younger politician, but he is still a politician.

    January 13, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  6. Jake, California

    Bob is a coward. He meant to comment on this drug use issue but was afraid to use the exact words...This is exactly what Obama is against. Be bold and speak your mind if you want to.

    And to Hillary folks, we are tired and sick of these little jabs and stabs whenever you are down in the polls.

    Please put some consistency in your campaign.

    If Mr. Johnson meant to comment on Obama's community organizing, why didn't he mention that phrase what was hard about it?

    Mr. Johnson has founded a tv station that encourages gangster behaviors from American youth yet he turns around and criticizes somebody's mistake that was made in his youth...

    Only the twisted ones will follow Hillary you know, I just feel bad for her day after day.

    January 13, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  7. New Yorker, NYC

    I use to like Obama, guess what i don't like him anymore.

    I believe as Black Male, You think I'll being voting for Obama. Well your dead wrong. We already had a Black President. His name was President Bill Clinton. I am not voting for someone that went to Harvard. I going to someone that went to Yale.

    Senator Clinton for Pres. of US '08

    January 13, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  8. Ron, Bronx, NY

    Response to Tyler's question :Why is it that when Obama is "attacked' people come rushing to his side and slamming Clinton?

    Don't you see the problem with your question? The moment he is "attacked" ? I thought campaigning for public office meant challenging each candidate on the issues and not a battle to attack and destroy the personalities of candidates. Ask questions about a candidate's stance on the issues without 'attacking' and you will a get a fair response. I think this whole attack thing is bad for America because we end up with a president whose campaign can sling the most mud.

    January 13, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  9. David

    I'm a lifelong registered Democrat and will not vote for Hillary Clinton if she's the Democratic nominee in November.

    She's running the most offensive campaign I've seen in years – using Karl Rove's playbook to divide the country by race and gender. Shameful.

    January 13, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  10. Kyle, Macon MO

    It is a shame that Mr. Johnson would remark in such a way about Barak Obama, considering the channel that he founded. Turn on 106 & Park or any other video program aired on B.E.T. and you as a black, white, latino, or asian individual will see all of the negative sterotypes portrayed in the music videos that show various activities (drinking, drugs, craps/dice, pimpin', etc.) in the neighborhood that apparenty Mr. Johnson is offended by. I guess that he doesn't watch his own channel!

    January 13, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  11. Kaye, MD

    African-American leaders like Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharpton are using the Clinton's statements as justification for supporting Obama. These guys have known the Clintons for many years. If either of them were racist, Jackson and Sharpton would have jumped on them years ago.

    January 13, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  12. James springfield mo


    January 13, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  13. New Yorker, NYC

    I define my self as a Centrist to but Liberal on science issue.
    The more i read about Obama and his whinning it make not vote for him. Every debate i listen i hear that same from Obama. No new substance. Doesn't know where he stands on any issue.

    Hilary Clinton '08

    January 13, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  14. Ron, Bronx, NY

    Oh, the ever- calculating politician, maybe Hill made the remarks about MLK deliberately. Now we all see what that has done to the entire campaign. Injected race into it. GO HILL. DIVIDE AND WIN. WE'LL SEE HOW WELL YOU GOVERN WITH THESE TACTICS.

    January 13, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  15. Obama '08

    How dare Obama supporters take away this African-American male's right to free speech?

    He made the comments He wanted to. That's it.

    January 13, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  16. s.positive

    Let the pigs continue to play in the mud while the eagles sour above...

    January 13, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  17. Jabari Woods

    Are Clinton supporters really saying tis OK to go after a candidate for admitted TEENAGE drug use? TEENAGE! This pretty much reinforces the notion that her folks are running for an excellent campaign for senior class president....

    January 13, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  18. Jesus

    Still some of you are still hating Hillary. I feel so sad because i was used to be like you.. I did hate Hilllary before. When I saw Hillary coming to our state for supporting my senator, I decided to meet her. Somehow, she's so friendly and she lets me question her about the government and her goals. I realize that she is not a liar like media says about her. I feel so regret that i did not vote her. I have learned my mistake. I should not judge on her. I respect her very much. I am honored to vote for her.

    Again, it is up to you whether you are voting against her or vote for her.

    God bless you

    January 13, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  19. djw

    Bob Johnson is an idiot – he made plenty of money off of African American comics and didn't pay them well, he makes the writer strike look good. I am African American I will not vote for Hilary but if Mike Huckebee gets the nom I will vote for him

    January 13, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  20. New Yorker, NYC

    Last two election its extremeist on the Right and extremeist on Left are bit loud i voting for Hillary. Experience GWB during 2000 and now. I am risking my vote with Obama for a another un fullied promise.

    January 13, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  21. em4carmalt

    What a crock! Stirring up old news is the best the Clinton supporters can do? I'd be willing to bet the majority of adults Obama's age or Hillary's age would admit to having done something "illegal" in their youth. Remember Bill's claim he "didn't inhale"? Give me a break.

    January 13, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  22. Adam

    Only Obama could make it a high crime for anyone to mention his significant teenage drug-use. Kudos to his PR people; Karl Rove couldn't have spun this into a hate-Hillary issue as well as they have.

    What's especially astounding is that Hillary takes the blame whenever anyone associated with her, including local campaign chairmen, endorsers, donors, and seemingly any voter at one of her rallies, makes any comment regarding Senator Obama's long-past and deservingly forgettable yet undeniably illegal behavior.

    Those who see this story as a truly legitimate reason to oppose Hillary Clinton are simply seeking to affirm their pre-held opposition to her. Through a truly objective lense, it is impossible (or at least unreasonable) to hold a situation like the one in this story against her.

    January 13, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  23. saddam_hussien

    This reminds me of Saddam Hussein...destroy anyone that stands between you and the seat of the president.

    January 13, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  24. xtina chicago IL

    "Thomas" @ 6:40pm makes a good point . When you click on cnn.com's Political Ticker or any news report, you know that you're going to to get some drama between the Presidential hopefuls. It's so boring and so beside the point of "who's the most qualified".
    Another of his points is, if Hillary is like this now with the back-biting and the political games playing, how is she going to be when she and her hubby get really powerful? I mean talk about domineering. I know people don't like President Bush's Patriot Act and the warrantless wire-tapping and the cell-phone tapping, but really, a conservative President will NOT be in your business as much as these two Dem front-runners appear to want to be.

    January 13, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  25. C Jenkins

    I agree with Bob Johnson in that I am embarrassed with Senator Obama's sharp criticism of Senator Clinton. Senator Obama is acting like a spoiled child, fighting harshly back, and hiding behind black leaders like Sharpton to get ahead. HE is playing the race card, yet he has not shown me how HE will help blacks in this country. I wish Obama would act more dignified and play a dignified game, instead of getting ugly and hurting all of us! Just two months ago, Al Sharpton and his group always referred to former President Clinton as ‘The first black President’. Now, he has already betrayed him and disrespected his wife. How quickly they forget.

    January 13, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 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