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. Steve ATL


    January 13, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  2. AJ

    The Clintons know how to play the race card – – – don't forget Bill Clinton's refernce to rapper "Sista Solja" to signal to white voters that he was not about that kind of Black person. How can Hillary be silent about any referne to drug use when her own husband has drug use in his past. Oh, I forgot, he did not "inhale." There is an opportunity to turn the page on the old politics as usual that Hillary and Bill represent. VOTE OBAMA!

    January 13, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  3. Rebecca,

    Why isn't it o.k. to ask Obama about his previous drug use? It is a matter of judgement. And he chose to do this at some point in his life. Why is this topic off limits. Why isn't the press asking harder questions about this? This should be fair game. I know he's a likable guy, but geez, can the press please stop giving him the George Bush 2000 treatment?

    January 13, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  4. FRED



    January 13, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  5. Marge Hibbing Mn

    Why is it, Obama and his supporters are posting and saying all kinds of crap about Hillary...they say now she stole the election in New Hampshire. So she controls New Hampshire she can do anything she wants in that state...they say she is talking about her gender...so..she 's a woman.

    Now we have Obama and his supporters bitc*ing about race. WELL HIS SUPPORTERS think it is OK for him to do stuff like that. No body questions HIM on anything. What in the devil kind of campaign is this.

    She is suppose to nod and shake her head and shake hands and Obama is allowed to spew his crap all over the place and SHE can't say anything about it.


    Hillary is the one they bash..gee I wish she would win every single state by a landslide and see what the little cry baby Obama and his more than cry baby supporters do.

    January 13, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  6. Jackson

    Why is it that no one can comment on Obama's past drug use ... but Obama? He spoke to high school students about it and also wrote about it in his book ... this is just so much craziness ... it is not like someone telling a lie on him.

    I have just the greatest respect for Bob Johnson and I don't think it is fair for people to second-guess his words ... they are his words, and only he knows exactly what he means. I think the Obama people should stop attacking anyone who says anything about Obama that they don't like ... and instead start researching this candidate's history ... and I mean his voting history ... not his childhood!

    January 13, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  7. SilerMarriott

    I cannot speak for what Bob Johnson was referencing in Obama's youth, but I 100% agree with his overall intent.

    I too am insulted by "the memo" Hillary & Bill Clinton are so far from being racist–this memo and comments from Obama's side if not so dangerous and sinister would be a ridiculous joke.

    Bill & Hillary Clinton have been putting themselves on the line for black folks for years and have the battle scars to prove it.

    Obama needs to run on his record and stop comparing himself to MLK and JFK and being so self-righteous about the war.

    From an AA female who can see through the hype.

    Hillary all The Way!!!!!

    Our so called leaders need to get the facts before they start pontificating about how insulted they are about the Clintons– Donna B., Mr. New York times You know who I mean.

    January 13, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  8. Dee

    This is really ridicious...I haven't heard Barack so anything about what was being said except it didn't come from his campaign. Hillary is manufacturing this drama to keep herself in the news...classic status quo politics....same ole, same ole.

    January 13, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  9. Robert Wooller Bradford England

    So what if he has taken drugs, he won't be the first one to have and won't be the last. Can't we just focus on the important issues at hand that affect people daily like poverty, troops dying in Iraq and the like. I remember when Clinton used to talk about Iraq and why it is so bad. Why can't she go back to that dialog again?

    January 13, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  10. Christine NJ

    The Barack Obama supports seems to yelled, because they knows Barack Obama used drug record is true history, how should you proof to American Citizen can accept such bad behavior person for our leader.

    January 13, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  11. Kyle G. Columbia SC

    OH MY GOSH!! YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!?!?!?! I must have Bozo the clown written on my forehead!! Mr. Johnson sir with all due respect if that was what you meant to say you would've done a better job at saying "while he was an orangnizer" but the way you stated what is was to suggest??? Let me tell you, "if Barack wasn't doing drugs like he said in his book then maybe he could've done thing." Hillary come on lets be HONEST FOR ONCE!! You knoew what he meant. "FOOL ME ONCE SHAME ON YOU, FOOL ME TWICE SHAME ON ME."

    January 13, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  12. Mike, California

    Cant everyone see that Bob Johnson means more harm to America than anoyone else? He has that BET station that encourages young people to be gangsters and especially to USE AND ABUSE BLACK WOMEN in their music videos? At least Obama is trying to hep us get united not!
    I am utterly surprise that Hillary will allow a person like Bob Johnson to come close to her!

    January 13, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  13. ConcernedinNC

    I am really surprised that anyone would listen to Johnson. This is a man who for years got rich off of degrading his own people. Just because you allow "so called" gospel music on your network, does not make up for allowing those entertainers who make a living off of discrediting and insulting our culture and more importantly our mothers, sisters and daughters. I am offended that the Clintons are so in need of support that they welcome this Johnson character into their camp.

    January 13, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  14. Lukyoh

    You can count on this independent to NOT VOTE FOR HILLARY in the general election. SHE WON'T WIN THE GENERAL ELECTION, DEMOCRATS! The only case in which I won't vote for the Republican over her is if it's Huckabee... in that case, I just won't vote!

    January 13, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  15. Kevin in Oklahoma

    Some people are just plain stupid. Hillary Clinton didn't make these comments. However, leave it to Barack Obama supporters to put words into her mouth. Barack's supporters are just as bad as he is. They, like him, put words into her mouth, and then believe their lies. Idiots.

    To those saying if Hillary is the Democratic nominee, they'll vote for a Republican, that's fine. If Barack Obama were to be the Democratic nominess, then I'll vote for a Republican. I know many people who feel the same way. They'll either be voting for Hillary Clinton, or they will vote Republican.

    Barack Obama is proving that he, and his supporters, can not unite America. This becomes more clear, every day.

    Hillary Clinton is the ONLY choice for REAL choice for President. Those who don't, or refuse to see it, are blind.

    January 13, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  16. Mike

    I am starting to lose respect for Bob Johnson. It's fine for her to take the founder of BET to S.C., where a lot of blacks will vote in their primary to help her campaign. However, when he makes an old, tired, and personal attack against Senator Obama, it makes her look even worse. Now Bob Johnson is saying that he wasn't talking about Obama's drug use. Come on... seriously. It's okay.
    Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone. Can Bob Johnson honestly tell me he's never tried drugs in his life? Don't be a hypocrite Mr. Johnson. Why don't you focus on the positives of your candidate?
    Bill Clinton said what he said. I was not offended but as a politician, he should know that the press will interpret as they see it. That statement comes of from Bill as an aging politician who is frustrated with how his wife's campaign was going and responded out of that frustration. Will some of these people really support Clinton if Bill wasn't her husband? Barack has earned all his support, it didn't come via his spouse. Also, Barack's campaign has given no comment on Bill and Hillary's statements over the last few days. People get tired of all these negative personal attacks and the Clinton campaign has had a history or personal attacks against Obama. She can't win Independents and she will certainly not win any Republicans.

    January 13, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  17. Beth

    I have always voted Democrat but cannot vote for Hilary. I will vote Republican if she gets the nomination.

    January 13, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  18. jw, canadian,ok


    January 13, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  19. RevRayGreen

    maybe if Hillary would admit to her using the herb and stop in the justice that is marijuana prohibition, she would'nt need to resort to attacks or tears to get votes.

    January 13, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  20. Susan

    Go Obama! I just checked her website, everything is anti-Obama. Clinton is pathetic and may end up forcing me to vote Republican.

    January 13, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  21. caribbean

    bet is promoting obama only is this racist,

    Obama is doing motivational speech only ,when will he speak on real issues like all the other canidates, it seems reporters are afraid to ask obama real questions for fear that they will be classified as racist.

    January 13, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  22. Ray

    Hillary will use what ever it takes. Lie, lie, and lie and get other people to lie or change the truth or try to reteach history the way she thinks it should be.

    January 13, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  23. California voter

    Perhaps I am missing something here after reading all the comments.

    If Obama admits to using drugs in his book, why is it wrong to mention it??? Look at all the comments about Clinton that concern past history.

    January 13, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  24. Sky

    Hillary is great at finding people to do her dirty work. We are suppose to respect the words of the man who runs BET. Of course he stands with the Clinton's, look at his programming. Money, sex, more money and more sex. Its a perfect partnership. Now if people were serious about honest candidates, Hillary would not even be in the picture. Just because she didn't get caught, remember O.J.,
    doesn't mean she didn't do the crimes. This country likes trash, we have had trash in the White House for almost 16 years. Please people, vote for anyone except a Clinton or a Bush. Our country needs people like Edwards, Romney and Obama. We need smart, respectable people who don't owe anyone anything.

    January 13, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  25. New York Independent

    It's the height of imperious arrogance for Mr. Johnson to attempt to hoodwink us into believing that he was talking about "community organizing."

    Senator Clinton supporters, if you ever wonder why there is so much disgust in this country for that family, here's today's example.

    People who have respect for themselves are outraged when someone who thinks he or she is better or smarter or richer lies to them and then tries to turn around and say that it wasn't a lie. And for anyone who says, "it was Bob Johnson, not Senator Clinton," either you think you can lie to us as well, or you're just too ignorant to realize what you're saying.

    January 13, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
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