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. Annie

    I am an Obama supporter, and I welcome and criticism about his record, but the Clnton camp is not doing that. I will vote for someone with less experience that I think will help unite this country and the world, but there is no way I will ever vote for Hillary. I will either stay home or vote Republican, because I always vote for the person, not the party. Just because someone has not been in the Senate as long as she has does not disqualify that person. Hillary only wants to count Obama's Senate experience. Well then, all of those 35 years of experience go down the drain, and she only gets to claim 7 years of experience, because that is the only experience that she has as an elected experience. Obama spent 8 years in the legislature in Illinois before going to the Senate, so that actually gives him more experience than Hillary as an elected official.

    January 13, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  2. marc

    Mr. Johnson did not read his history, can anyone tell me what the Clintons has done for the Black community. When her Husband had the chance to make minority appointments, can anyone tell me which Minority he appointed to key cabinet post? Mrs. Clinton stated he was intimately involved in her husband administration, but yet she did not know anything about the pardon of mark rich. Washington has been a partisan gridlock for how long, and nothing is getting done. Do we want other 4 or 8 years years?
    It is time for someone from the new generations who understands our issues and are willing to help. Unfortunately Mrs. Clinton is calculating and thinks she belongs in the White House, Too calculating and phony for me. We need new blood in Washington. People open your eyes, look who are the chairman of these committees that are to setting policies that affect the future generation. We need a change people and please do not be blind by the phony Clinton campaign who thinks that office belong to her.
    Tim I am disappointed, I have watch you for years and this was one of your worst performance as host, you let Clinton set the stage.

    January 13, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  3. New Yorker, NYC

    I also gotta love all those Obama claiming themselves to be Dems. He can lose to any republlican when he win noms. Dems are not stupid to vote for Obama knowing that.

    January 13, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  4. David W

    God, Hillary makes it impossible to like her. She has SOO much corruption but tries to point fingers..and dummies like Bob Johnson fall into it, for money or whatever reason. And all this in a church...I'm sure if a little girl saw what was going on, she'd tear up like Hillary.

    January 13, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  5. sunnyday

    The question is " can Mr. Barak stand up to all of the important issues that the Nation is facing if he can't take the heat from the campaign". Everyone seems to soft shoe around Mr. Barak and beat Mrs. Clinton to death. How can you have a race issue with a candidate who has claimed his race as "American", this is not London where all citizens are British, we have at least five race categories and one of those is African American/Black, I find this insulting, but it's just an example of how he has made decisions in the Senate, oops, that's right he cannot, he's just present. So many of you are worried about who said what, you better wake up and smell the coffee or else we might be in the same boat we are in today if you vote Obama. Saavy, eloquent , talk, and promises is not what is going to mend this Nation, it 'sknowing how to reform, mend, and get things done. "Wake up Folks", some of you are really being SNOWED.

    January 13, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  6. DeAngelo Jones, Chicago, IL.

    It is unmistakeable what Bob Johnson was referring to when he said that Obama "was doing something in the neighborhood". He is a part of the corporate power elite and I expect nothing less from him. However, this is yet another distraction from the real issues. The pending loss of American civil liberties and sovereignty in the name of national security as illustrated by the development of the Real ID and the American Union, the economic war on the middle class by the Federal Reserve partner banks and corporate America, and the lack of initiative in responding to these usurpations by most of our elected officials including Hillary and Barack. These are the issues that are at the forefront of the minds of the real Americans that Hillary and Barack claim to represent, not who can score more points in meaningless political polls by slinging the most mud at one another.

    January 13, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  7. Kim, Sacramento, CA

    This is getting old and this is getting tiring. Hillary is getting desperate and it is really sad that people who are supporting her are following her lead on this kind of garbage.

    January 13, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  8. kdur

    Hillary is pathatic. I'm not surprised at Bob Johnson, you know he actually had the nerve to give Bill Clinton credit for his founding of BET. The last BET show before he left, Bill Clinton was piped in on the telecast, later he gave credit to Bill Clinton for the founding of BET, or Bill took credit, can't remember which one. But apparantly when Bob Johnson wanted to create a "black" televsion station, Bill pulled a lot of strings with financial institutions. That moment has been stuck in my mind every since. How in the world can you create a television network and can't even take credit for it. It had to he so difficult for Bob Johnson on a worldwide stage and be upstaged by Bill. If Bill had not been piped into the show, I guess nothing would have been said about it. Or at the least, Bill should have let it pass for Bob Johnson's sake, in front of this hugh audience Bob Johnson just sat there and laughed. It was funny to him but so degrading to others.

    He's a billionaire now, wonder how much more soul he has left to sell. Oh, silly of me, Hillary bought the last piece today. Oh and by the way, I smoked pot in my early years too, everyone in the sixties did and if they say they didn't they are lying.

    I will only vote for Barack Obama, by write-in if necessary, but I don't think that will be necessary - Obama 08

    January 13, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  9. GJ

    I would think Obama will own up to it, which he already has, unlike Bill who deflected and skirted around the same question when he ran for president.

    Such a bunch of hyporcrites.... I've had enough of the Bill & Hill show.

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

    I can't believe Bob Johnson could be so cheap!! He's just bought into those RHC crocodile tears again....politically calculated! Yah Bob Johnson, I think you should come all out...Using your BET channel and say out right that you HATE black people! The same that put you where you're now.... Please, DO NOT STOOP THAT LOW FOR YOUR OWN GAIN....THINK ABOUT THE MILLIONS OF LOW INCOME AMERICANS.......


    I LOVE THE USA !!!

    January 13, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  11. Tina ny, ny

    I just heard Michelle Obama giving a speech. Over all she was trying so hard to do emotionally what Hillary did in the cafe on monday. Only difference Michelle looked a really bad actress. SHe looked so phoney. She was complaining or trying to look hurt due to fairy tale comments.
    Obama is starting to show his colours......ooops..true self.

    anyone but obama

    January 13, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  12. Mary, Las Vegas

    I'm a registered Republican who was intending on participating in the Nevada Democratic Caucus Jan 19 to support the first lady president. However, considering Clinton is condoning this type of campaign attack leaves me wonder what type of White House she'd run. I'd rather go with a Republican at this point. It's better the devil you know than the devil you don't.

    January 13, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  13. L.S. Viney

    There is still a word we should all use when we listen to what other have to say. That word is credible. Bob Johnson, founder of BET, said he was "offended" by the Obama camp and has issue of his drug use. Well before we value the words, lets value the man.

    Bob Johnson is one of the richest men and African American men in America. He built his wealth off of BET. For those of you that may or may not know, BET has been a cable channel that has made its popularity and wealth off of exploiting the sexuality of African American women and reinforcing the stereotypical images of African American men. BET has been long known as a cancer within the African American community.

    so instead of making a statement, I raise a question to all of you. How credible can you value a man's words when he himself has built his wealth, power a popularity off of less than moral and ethical means?

    January 13, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  14. J. Orr

    I do believe he made a general statement about what Senator Obama has already made public in his book. I think CNN should stop assuming things because you know what it means to "assume".

    January 13, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  15. w.owens

    Like the Clinton's never broke the law...

    January 13, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  16. Pon Mao

    One thing Hillary Clinton keeps touting her “35 years experience”, but what has she really done? I can think of two: one is being the wife of a 2-term president, (yes this is some experience all the male candidate doesn’t have), the other is voting for the Iraq war (even I was able to tell back then that the Iraq War was a bad idea, so she had worse judgment than I – an ordinary citizen? Why should I trust she can lead our country in the future?)

    It seems all she does is trying to get the votes; she will say anything that is popular to the voters. Has she done anything to benefit ordinary citizens? Has she done anything for the ordinary blacks (other than some corporate boss)? Only when it comes to black votes, you are all suddenly in her heart now.

    I am ready to vote for Democrats this year, but if Clinton gets nominated, my vote will sure go to Republican, no matter who their candidate is.

    January 13, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  17. David W

    Kucinich is planning a recount, by hand votes Obama won by 5%, this will be held Jan. 16th..but even if they don't recount and he doesn't end up being the winner of NH, they still have the same number of delegates, 9 each....which is what you need to win

    January 13, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  18. Joe Lockheed

    When will America finally lay to rest this Bush-Clinton-Bush Curse?. The founding fathers once warned against political dynasties as being incompatible with democracy.And we have lived through one of the worst administrations a dynasty can bring into our lives.The question for the thinking minds is are we going to vote for another member of the dynasty, Hillary, the epitome of that old-school, old-money establishment???. What a folly that will be!!!.
    Where's the new teary Hillary who is all human all positive?. Since New Hamphire, who is now digging up any mud imaginable and throwing around. Where's the positive Hillary?.Why is she so scared of Obama than the other candidates-both democratic and republican?. Because she knows she will never be like Obama in a hundred years!!!.
    In Iowa, after the longest campaigning in this election, voters in Iowa saw through her lack of integrity,authenticity and decency.And now the old Hillary is back, drank with her win in New Hampshire and playing dirty true to her form. unlike her Obama will continue to play positive, campaign with integrity, authencity and decency. Its not a one man burden, its the burden for the whole nation.Change or no change is as old as human history. Let's see how her kitchen experience in the Whitehouse will fare against the hard-core republicans like Macains, Mitts, Huckbees etc. There no amount of tears will shield her and all that Obama couldn't utter will be uttered. How I look forward to that!!!.

    January 13, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  19. Kent

    CNN just used footage of Hillary Clinton campaigning in New
    Hampshire saying that it was footage of her campaigning in South Carolina!! Am I the only one who missed this?

    January 13, 2008 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  20. Rober O, Fla

    It continues to amaze and astound me that Black Leaders in this country are not supporting Obama. While he is intelligent and clear in his message, he also represents for me, what Black youth in this county can look at as a true role model. This man has worked for everything he has in life, he did it the hard way, honestly and if he is selected as the Democratic Nominee he will be an excellent leader.
    We know what the Clinton's did, lets give fresh leadership, no mater race or gender, a try. Come on People, lets support a man that truly can unite and make this country proud again.

    January 13, 2008 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  21. Lanre

    I can understand why Bob Jonhson has an axe to grind with Obama. The latter has criticized the BET for its obscene and morally bankrupt programming that has contributed to ruining the lifes of young black kids. The Clintons on the other hand, turned a blind eye to the destructive nature of BET's programming for fear of losing their patronage from that sycophant.

    The clintons and their rear-kissing cronies dont care about the black community and would do anything to bring down anyone who dares to speak truth to them.

    Johnson, in my opinion, is the # 1 destroyer of black moralty thru his BET.

    January 13, 2008 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  22. Rober O, Fla

    It continues to amaze and astound me that Black Leaders in this country are not supporting Obama. While he is intelligent and clear in his message, he also represents for me, what Black youth in this county can look at as a true role model. This man has worked for everything he has in life, he did it the hard way, honestly and if he is selected as the Democratic Nominee he will be an excellent leader.
    We know what the Clinton's did, lets give fresh leadership, no mater race or gender a try. Come on People, lets support a man who can truly unite this country again.

    January 13, 2008 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  23. Was not going to say anything but

    8 yrs washing Bill's underwear should not count as experience (is this ok because I am a woman)? Stop knocking Obama’s experience because neither has that much. This is probably a good thing. Character is more important. The media has made Obama the black candidate (not himself) but Hillary and some of her followers have made her the female candidate. I don't see Obama crying foul, it is just potential voters. Don't backtrack just think before you speak. A Life long Dem but I will become an independent because all of this nonsense shows a weak dysfunctional party. When you say something perceived as racist or sexist, stop telling people” by the way I am black, white, female or male”. Nobody cares and you are probably lying.

    January 13, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  24. carol

    It is clear the Obama campaign is desperate.

    Fact – Bill Clinton had the affair.

    Fact – Barack Obama was the drug user.

    Clearly, the moral majority would be on the side of Hillary holding her head high and not succumbing to drug use and having the courage to forgive.

    People who can't win on the issues have to resort to mysogenistic and racist tactics. To call the Clinton's racists is not going to work. Those that say that are the racists.

    January 13, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  25. Sam

    The caption on the picture is:

    "Clinton and Johnson spoke during services at the Northminster Presbyterian Church Sunday (Photo Credit: AP)".

    What happened to separation of church and State?

    January 13, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
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