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. Bobby

    These past few weeks have made me realize one thing. I will NEVER vote for Hillary. If she wins the nomination, I will vote republican. The actions of the Clinton camp these past few weeks have reminded me of the tactics of Karl Rove and George Bush.

    January 13, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  2. John ny, ny

    This site has Obama staffers coming in and putting up negative comments. Just the way they were doing it night before NH primary. If we were to believe those comments then Hillary should have lost NH. But she didn't. All this shows how pathetic Obama staffers are.

    January 13, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  3. Speak up

    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


    OH Yes, We all know she should have just pounced on him while he was talking. (sic)

    ...this isn't even closer to when Obama HIRED a well known bigoted Speaker to headline his 3 day tour through South Carolina while he spoke out against Gays. Obama even continued to have him after the outrage of his bigoted position and he sure didn't say anything then to acknowlidge the divisive and intolerant preachings And this was a highlight featuring the guy.

    January 13, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  4. Elizabeth

    >>>>This actually pales in comparison to the completely false claims they put out alleging that Obama would not stand up for a women's right to choose. <<<
    In addition to an e-mail, Hillary's campaign made those same completely false claims and, in addition, critically misleading claims about the impact of his Social Security proposals in flyers that were sent to voters immediately (3 days and 1 day) before the NH primary, giving no time for a response or discussion of the facts. Her husband's comments about Obama's position on the war were of the same stripe.

    Then she goes on national television today to say that she was offended that the Obama campaign was taking an approach "that was not only misleading but unnecessarily hurtful,” Yep, Karl Rove in a Democratic coat: always counting on the stupidity and credulity of the American public.

    BTW, I don't believe anyone is saying that the Clintons are racists - only that they will use anything, including race-baiting and even ruining in their party's chances in Nov., to win the nomination. But without question, they are truly equal opportunity. They'll use anyone.

    I, too, am a former (and proud) Biden supporter who will readily vote for Obama or Edwards and would have done so for Richardson or Dodd. If Clinton is the nominee, however, with a heavy heart and for the first time in my life, I will vote for a Republican if it's McCain, Huckabee or even Thompson. If it comes down to Clinton v Romney or Guilani ..... well, emigration to New Zealand, perhaps? --- Why? Not sour grapes, pouting, revenge or whatever else folks are charging. It's a matter of personal integrity. My single vote is the only real power, however infintesimal, that I have in all this. I simply could not face myself in the mirror if I used it to support the election of someone who I now know, without doubt, will be the same kind of lying, intelligence-insulting, divisive and unethical President that we have had for 7+ years. Their policies may well differ, but their procedures don't and, in the end, that's what counts.

    BTW, I'm a white woman in my 60s, NY resident – supposedly part of her greatest support group. Until now, I was a supporter of both Clinton and in fact have voted for both of them – twice. Never again. It is clear now that they have no genuine concern for their party - or their country - or its people.

    January 13, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  5. Harry

    I have voted Democrat all my life and I am ashamed of the dirty campaign Hillary is running. Obama must be winning and she must be scared as can to be resorting to this.

    Just to echo all the other pro Democratic Party people, if Clinton beats Obama I will be joining you in crossing the party lines and I will vote Republican the first time in my life.

    I guess if all you know is the status quo of the perpetuation of negativity, change must be the scariest thing on the planet to you.

    I am tired of America's political dynasties it is time for CHANGE.

    I will vote for Obama in the Texas primary and hope CHANGE will win.....

    January 13, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  6. O.A.

    Bob Johnson is an insult, the type of garbage that he portrays on his channel has been the worst images for blacks especially children to emulate. Now we have one of the most powerful and positive icons for black america which is Obama and his family in the white house. This is a battle of iconographies of the raunchy, destructive images and the positive icons being at work. The Clintons put him up to that talk. I will seriously not be watching BET and I feel African Americans such as myself and others should consider boycotting Johnson's enterprises till he learns and apologizes for spreading that slander on behalf of his masters.

    January 13, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  7. Outsider

    NOBAMA supporters should take it easy. They all think that he has already been coronated as the President. All this wasteful talk about HOPE and CHANGE. He is trying to fool everyone. He keeps talking about being an outsider. Where does he think he is working? United Nations? He simply tries to hide the fact that he is also from the same old Beltway crowd. Whoever, you decide to cast your vote for, please beware of that snake oil salesman of HOPE and CHANGE.

    January 13, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  8. Speak up

    Even Craig Roberts predicted on Countdown, it seemed a prelude that the Obama campaign was going to be playing the race card, building up for South Carolina, when they first started that "race" must have been a factor in the New Hampshire voting. We'v e been shown, his fears and Obama's pitiful tactics, true.

    January 13, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  9. C.Lo

    If Hillary is nominated, I will vote republican for the first time in my life. she is just trouble

    January 13, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  10. sue

    Drug use is fair game. It surely was fair when the pot smoking issue was raised during Bill Clintons race to the White House. Pres. Bush's past alchohol abuse has been discussed.
    Why would Obama's use of drugs not be fair to discuss ?
    Treating it differently would be saying, "it doesn't matter because he is a black man, and all black men use drugs, so no big deal." Well, it's a big deal because all black men don't use drugs, and don't condone drugs, and we all have a right to know about this.
    If it isn't about race, then this should not be off limits, and if this is off limits because of race, then it is insulting!!!

    January 13, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  11. Ahmed Mohammed

    i love hillary!!!!!!!!!
    she supports our people!!!!

    January 13, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  12. Lauren

    Because someone who has, heaven forbid, actually tried drugs and said they're not the way to go would be a horrible role model? Ugh. That's like saying that maybe someone cheated on a spelling test in 2nd grade and now they can't be valedictorian. At least Obama admitted it and said that it was unwise. Isn't that 100x better than lying about it?

    January 13, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  13. aware

    Obama's followers/commentators are an excallent example of what America could expect if he ever got near the Oval Office – devisive, arrogant, mean and uncivil! Anything to win – even manipulation of racism. Nothing new about Obama – just more sneaky politcs! All of the men in this race (both sides) are unqualified wimps with the exception of McCain and Ron Paul. Oh, Huckabee is disqualified only because of his SBC view of women that predates the Resurrection of Christ. 🙁

    I look forward to a real race between two authentic, transparent, proven and capable candidates – Clinton and McCain in the General Election 🙂

    January 13, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  14. Joe Whyte

    Mr. Johnson is shameless. His comments are disgraceful and tasteless beyond words. An embarrassment to the African American community.

    January 13, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  15. T

    He's the one who admitted to using drugs. Why can't anyone critisize him for it?Last I heard cocaine use is a felony. Obama admitted to a felony. Obama is right, there are a lot of young Black men in prison. Many of them could be in prison for using the same illegal substance he admits to using. The sentencing guidelines for cocaine use can run anywhere from 5 to 15 years, depending on how the judge wants to enforce them. The guidelines are outrageous and needlessly filling up prisons with inmates that shouldn't be in them. It's an important issue.

    With this said, I think CNN should pose the following question to him at the next debate..

    "Do you feel the drug laws for cocaine use should be reduced to a misdemeanor and drug users should be given rehabilitation versus prison time?"

    I personally believe cocaine pocession should be reduced to a misdemeanor and drug users should be given rehabilitation versus prison. Most American's probably feel the same. I would certainly hope Obama supporters do.

    But does anyone honestly think Obama would say yes to that question if it was posed to him. I'm curious, how would you want him to answer it..?

    January 13, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  16. cathy

    Just for the record..Obama has not played the rece card. He has gone out of his way to keep it about the issues not race or gender. Hillary said at the debate "isn't having a woman president change enough?" (No it is not).
    The Clintons brought up the whole MLK/LBJ thing and they KEEP bringing it up and trying to somehow blame Obama for their foot in mouth.
    Criticise Obama on the issues, but don't say he is playing race. Hillary is trying to make us think it is about race. That way she can scare all of the white voters away.

    January 13, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  17. Kay

    I don't get it...nothing bad was said by Hillary. But again Obama supporters want to make more out of it.

    January 13, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  18. caldwell, tx

    Calling Hillary racist is like biting the hand that feeds you, she's done alot for the black race. If obama gets the nominee i'll vote republican.

    January 13, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  19. Sharon in FL

    Obama is the one who injected race into the race. He chronicled his drug use in a book, and I assume he wanted the public to buy it and read it. So why is it such an awful surprise when his public comments are discussed publicly. Obama can't take criticism without yelling racism.
    Bill Clinton was crucified by the media and the Republicans for his public admission he smoked marijuana.
    No one can question Hillary's excellent record on civil rights issues. If Obama is the nominee, I will vote Republican for the first time in my life. Go Hillary '08.

    January 13, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  20. Ibeam

    Asking Obama hard questions is fair..race baiting is not...I'm sorry Clinton folks...you are using the race card, gender card and I'm the victim card. I'm tried of politics as usual. We will turn the page on the Clintons and their type of politics. And as far as not voting for Hil, if she is the Dem cand, I can not support a PERSON that attacked a young White house intern and tried to ruin her life when she was simply telling the truth.....The Clintons lie, cheat and decieve for their own benefit. I can not vote for a person like this. I would not be able to look my kids in the face anymore.

    January 13, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  21. Jonnie rae, Boston

    If women would take a look at the mysogynist videos and shows Johnson ran while head of BET, they might wonder why Hilary, the Woman's candidate, would even be seen with him on stage. But then, to her, any black face will do...He is the one who is playing "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and how real is being a bilionaire? She seems to be enjoying her shamelessness. All I can say is, what an eye-opener. All that stuff they said about the Clintons I never wanted to believe, but now, I do. Obama represents all that is the opposite of this.

    January 13, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  22. Lisa

    Can we expect to see Hillary dancing in a RAP video on the BET in the future?

    January 13, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  23. Jay

    Hillary reminds me of the woman who will sleep her way to the top.

    January 13, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  24. Elane

    I am still reeling from the spectacle of Mrs. Clinton attempting to show emotion in a desperate attempt to win woman's votes. She should be on Broadway instead of in DC. I , like all Americans remember the embarrassment brought to our highest office when Mr. Clinton couldn't control "his " emotions, or his zipper. She never publicly once showed any , emotion, tears, or even womanly anger at the fact that her husband had had oral sex in the Oval Office. Which she has now proclaimed that was basically run by her....hmmm. She is so orchestrated, calculating and cold. She even looks tense and unnatural with her own daughter. I love the thought of a woman president but not this power hungry woman who will do or say anything to get a vote. She scares me, and if she is going to claim that "new found" emotion as real, is she going to cry, and breakdown in front of World Leaders if she is not getting her way. A leopard does not change their spots, her spots are evil and anyone one that gets in her way needs to be aware that she will do anything, including try to be a woman, to get past them. I want to be able to see change, a Democrat can do this, but if she gets the nomination, I will vote for a Republican, any Republican just to keep her out. I challenge woman across this country to look at where we were as woman 30-40 years ago, are we going to be so desperate for a woman president that we will elect one that represents nothing of the women who got us here? Look at her past before we believe she has new found "warmth, humanity, or emotion" Think, if her marriage were that of a common average American man and woman would we as woman turn the other cheek, or would we openly be woman, filled with emotion and the evidence that the man we are married to...again...had made a mockery of that marriage. (I personally would have thrown his butt and clothes out onto the front lawn to show other woman and especially my daughter that this is unacceptable!!)In front of God, America, and the world Bill Clinton proclaimed by his infidelity he did not care about his Holy vows of marriage, the importance of his family, and that he had no respect for his wife. Woman of America, when you are drunk with power, you sell your soul. These two people had their chance, do we want to sacrifice our moral beliefs and once again go through that embarrassment? If she cannot believe in a marriage have the self respect to put aside your greed and lust for power for what is right, how can she run a country and make decisions about our lives and our futures? Please people..think...like Oprah said...think!

    January 13, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  25. Garrett, Seattle

    Hillary, Obama is NOT distorting your comments, nor are his staffers (he apparently is able to convince his staffers not to say things he'll have to apologize for...something you can learn from?). Sure, he could probably denounce those who are fully unrelated to his campaign who are saying negative things about you, but then you could also denounce the use of Obama's past drug experimentation for your political gain. So are you two even then? NO! Obama is staying out of the fray (maybe not the best thing to do, but it's his prerogative), but YOU were standing right there as Bob Johnson played the drug card, and you smiled. Shame on you!

    January 13, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
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