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. Marilyn, Marion

    "IF" Barack get the nomination, he won't know what has hit him when the Republicans dig the dirt up on him, for instance, his Islamic Muslin connections! His speeches are like a preacher in the pulpit, not a presidential candidate. He never talks specifics, like Hillary does. I am for Hillary and the only way we will defeat the Rep. is with Hillary. Barack has a shady past that will cause us to lose the election.

    January 13, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  2. Tom Davie

    Dear Senator Obama.

    As a Clinton supporter, I state for the record your admitted drug past was when you were young, and has NOTHING to do with who you are now.

    Senator Clinton has herself suggested she admires you. Your drug past is NOT an issue to me in the slightest.

    This story is some kind of rehash , but clearly suggests that African americans are keenly aware of the Clintons contributions to them.

    The guy who even brought it up stepped down , and Hillary herself is certain it is not an issue.

    We believe Hillary has some major experience , especially with Bill being president in a very successful administration, that you do not. We believe the white house should go to Hillary.

    However, if you are elected by the people. we will be PROUD to support you in your march to the white house.

    January 13, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  3. Robert in Albuquerque, NM

    As a black voter, I don't care what your skin color is. What I do care about is your PROVEN track record and Mr. Obama doesn't have one. I'm voting for Hillary!

    January 13, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  4. Jon

    as an undecided voter all i can say is... aren't we done with this yet?

    January 13, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  5. Courtney S.

    I will NOT vote for Hillary Clinton if she is the nominee... I will vote for a Republican because I have dignity.

    Its a shame SHE is the first viable female canidate....

    January 13, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  6. O.

    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. NARAL and Planned came out and vehemently denied this false allegation (sent out in an e-mail by the Clinton camp). This may have actually affected the women's vote in New Hampshire, but regardless, it's the baseness of the attack that is what's really upsetting.

    January 13, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  7. Richard Tabuteau, Atlanta, GA

    The Clinton campaign is disgusting. They really really are disgusting nasty campaigners. I don't to hear another word about them complain about Republicans when they conduct themselves like this. I used to have so much respect for them. Wow.

    January 13, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  8. Ellen

    Bob Johnson is talking about some one? Let me see – BET is a good representation of Black America? I am insulted that Bob Johnson the man who created BET would take issues with any one and the Clintons should be ashamed to be associated with him. Bob Johnson could have done so much more for Blacks, but instead he sold out and allowed his cable station to show a video of a rapper degrading a BLACK woman by slipping a credit card down her butt (among the other videos). NOW that is something to be insulted about! Bob – go chase the benjamins and stay out of politics – that is your real love...

    January 13, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  9. gal

    they are right to vet this get. the media won't do it and it's legit to ask question

    January 13, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  10. Pablo

    I'm still waiting for Obama to stoop to Hillary's level. I'm still waiting for Obama to use the race card. I'm still waiting for Obama to call out Hillary's constant lying of experience when it was nothing. And yet, he's above all that. How ANY Democrat could continue to support Hillary after the last couple weeks is beyond me. I understand if you did when it was thought that Obama had no chance, but NOW? Sure, vote Hillary and continue to set a precedent of bi-partisanship politics with yet another member of our two Royal Families.

    January 13, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  11. Robin, L.A.

    How is Hillary supposed to control Mr. Johnson's words?

    A more accurate ticker title might be BET Founder Slams Obama

    CNN, your coverage is STILL blatantly anti-Clinton.

    January 13, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  12. No Sleazebags

    Cheap shot after Obama's honesty. Bill didn't inhale, didn't have sex with that woman. So glad Johnson's "insultued", he's an "insult" to our intelligence. GOP for four more. Thanks Hillary for the latest member of the Billy Shaheen fan club!

    January 13, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  13. Tim

    African-Americans (and other minorities like myself who have suffered from real racism) are offended by him screaming racist every time someone challenges him. He has a record, he should get it out there, and run on that instead of accusing everyone of being a racist. He needs to get off his high horse and realize that it is appropriate to scrutinize a presidential candidate. And, by the way, Clinton did not criticize him in this latest story...it was Mr. Johnson, who is a prominent voice in the African-American community.

    January 13, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  14. james

    I really wanted to vote for Hillary but her remarks about MLK were beyond measure and can not vote for her after that.
    when she did make that remark, then says Obama disorted what she said then says Obama is great, what can makes her think she can act all she want and get voted in the office while we have this great guy beside. I am not a fool Clintons!

    January 13, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  15. Carol

    Agreed, Adam, Agreed.

    January 13, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  16. Erline

    I get mixed message from Hillary all the time. I don't even know what she stands for. It is clear this time household name is not a path to Presidency!

    Go Obamarama!

    January 13, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  17. Bimmer

    His drug use should be an issue. Just because he made a confession that does not exonerate him. He will be sending the wrong message to the young kids that it is OK to do drugs withour realizing that for one who recovers from it there are many whose life is ruined.

    January 13, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  18. Mati

    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.

    January 13, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  19. Karl

    wow, this is one of the biggest messes in America. I doubt anyone would have ever known something that personal in his life had he not admitted it in his book. If Ms. Clinton wins the democratic nomination I will vote against her no matter who it is for...

    January 13, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  20. Kevin

    I always thought I'd vote for a Democrat above a Republican candidate, however I'd vote for McCain above Hillary. She picks her daily personality from her well-equipped and funded closet, and manipulates words and actions from anyone who possibly stands in her way.

    People view her as a strong personality, however what kind of person would tolerate a cheating husband other than to ride out the storm for political gain. Please America, do not let this woman become our next president.

    January 13, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  21. S.K.M. Boston Mass

    Ya know, this whole issue could have been resolved after Bill started to make those calls to clarify things. Clyburn was satisfied with the Clintons attempts at damage control for what was, as even I as an Obama supporter will say, misstatements. Now, after Clyburn has said he'd stay neutral, they're dragging this whole sorry mess back out into the open. First on Meet the Press, now this. The only thing they seemed to have learned is to use an African-American to make these kinds of statements.

    January 13, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  22. Ben

    I will never vote for Clinton NEVER... Doesn't anyone see that she injected sexism and race into this thing. She's setting the party back decades.

    January 13, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  23. Hannah

    Appearing with black People in your pictures doesn't mean I am voting for you. These are old leaders who have followed white people and persuade them to do them favours when they need them but when things like Katrina hit they have noone to help them. I am a spanish and hillary concerns and the republicans is not what I am looking for.
    I want someone who can talk to me or who I can reason with and I am voting Obama!

    January 13, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  24. La'Kitgum, NH

    Obama's drug abuse should not go unchallenged. We already know what an alcholic president called Bush did to our country and friends. We can't continue to elect prsidents who have abused substances because sooner or later – as we experienced with Bush – they will abuse the country at large through misplaced and misdirected policies.

    January 13, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  25. david frank

    Hillary and Bill have run a terrible, divisive and hateful campaign. I too always though any democrat would be better than bush, but now I'd support anyone except Clinton. She is corrupt and mean.

    January 13, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
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