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. Concerned Citizen, IN

    For the Hillary supporters who claim she has always been with African Americans and fighting for them, please cite specific policies she has introduced or implemented that directly impact them as a group of people.

    Not being snide, I just don't know the specifics and would appreciate some help here. Not being racist does not mean you are explicitly fighting for African Americans. I want to know what she has done that has been more critical than Obama being a community organizer in Chicago.

    January 13, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  2. Sunny

    Clinton will do anything to win this nomination. Instead of attacking other candidates of her party, she should prompt her candidacy by telling Americans as what she has in store for us. She mentioned that she has 35 years of experience. But I wonder what she did in the past 35 years? Just trying to win the nomination by shedding some tears and getting the sympathy votes would not do any good to her or us. A country can not be run on emotions. A leader must be strong.

    January 13, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  3. Eric from Massachusetts

    Hillary is not losing the race... she will probably win. It's time for Baracka Hussein Obama to prove that he is a uniter. All I see is his campaign jumping on everything anyone remotely connected to the Clintons and throwing out the race card. 10 months of this and white Americans are going to get pretty put off by it. They won't want 4 or 8 years of it for sure.

    January 13, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  4. Patrick, Bethlehem,PA

    Remarks coming from a man who built his empire on nothing else but video shows that degraded women through rappers.

    January 13, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  5. Jim, Chicago

    How candidates manage their campaigns is an indication of how they will govern, that is, if they are elected. Review all the nasty stuff that Karl Rove did, and how his client, Bush has performed. Does what the Clinton campaign has done over the last several weeks remind you of Karl Rove?

    January 13, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  6. Jaz

    Goodbye Obama, your campaign has descended into another race row. People will never vote for a racially divided candidate.

    Obama's camp stirred this up, they will pay for it in votes on Super-Tuesday.

    January 13, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  7. Dave

    Clinton has alot of experience – of REWRITING HISTORY! No shame from the Clinton's! I do not want dishonest people in the White House, especially our President! All people are included in Obama's Hope and Vision message. Whereas the Clinton's are working the Rove/Washington D.C. PLAYBOOK TO A 'T'. VOTE FOR OBAMA! I AM OFFENDED BY THE CLINTON'S COMMENTS!

    January 13, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  8. greg,new york

    If hillary wins I will not vote.

    January 13, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  9. carlo

    If anyone on here thinks for a minute that Hillary and Bob Johnson didin't discuss his views on Obama before he stepped on that stage is really deluding themselves. She is using Johnson, a glorified pimp who has profited from denigrating african-americans, as a surrogate to say what she can't say. Instead, she is using allusions to race to stir up a racial divide and cause the "Jesse Jackson" effect, i.e., splitting black votes from white votes to get the nomination.

    Obama has not responded to any of Hillary's, Bill's, or Johnson's remarks, but, at this point, he doesn't have to. Their intended effect is the same-cause people to start talking, which in turn will cause Democratic voters to create the racial divide by ourselves. It has been done before, and, unlike in the past, Obama's input isn't really needed. Look what it is doing already. I sincerely hope that all voters, black and white, see what this shameful political tactic is about, and do not vote for Hillary. She is causing division already, and we're not into Super Tuesday yet.

    I have never voted for a Republican president, but if she gets the nomination, I will be voting Republican.

    January 13, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  10. Will

    How disingenuous is Bob Johnson?

    First he says of Obama that "I won't say what he was doing" in the neighborhood and now he claims that all along he was talking about Obama's efforts as a community organizer? I don't see why he wouldn't have just said that in the first place, or why he would think that community organization is something negative, as his first comment would imply even if that was what he was talking about.

    To Mr. Johnson: If you are man enough to make statements like this to the public you should be man enough to stick to what you said and stop running away from your words.

    January 13, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  11. Mike

    Ellie, they won the exact same number of delegates. They're the ones who really decide who the nominee is going to be. She got more votes, but they got the same number of delegates. It's more like a tie, if anything. Either way, she really needed to win that state.
    If she could be "tricked" by the Bush Administration into going to war when some of us saw that it was a bad idea, what does that say about her judgment and leadership? Barack has always said that he voted to give the troops the funds they needed because he didn't want them to come in harm's way. Also, the Democrats do not have enough votes to override a veto. I support the troops, I want my two brothers in Iraq to have the money they need, but I am against the war. I thought it was a terrible idea from the beginning. He else does Mrs. Clinton expect Obama to vote after she made the poor decision to vote for this war. The Resolution clearly stated that it would be givin Bush the authorization to go to war if he wanted. How can you say that you voted to give that authorization but you thought they were not really going to use it right away. How could you let Bush trick you like that Mrs. Clinton?

    January 13, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  12. Lolly

    I would like to quote several of the posts already here...I thought long about what to say, but some of it was already so well said that I quote them below. I hope the posters won't mind. I voted for Bill every time I had an opportunity, but I was fooled about his character, as so many were. I don't want to be fooled by the Clintons again. The thought of Mr. Bill back in the White House (or near it) in any capacity makes me ill. I forgive him, but I don't have to forget! Hillary seems to forget a lot of things.

    "NANCY REAGAN did drugs...GEORGE W BUSH did drugs...BILL CLINTON did drugs. Drug use is a (huge} problem in our country. Using drugs at some point in your life does not disqualify you for presidential office."

    "Just another day of the Clintons clarifying what they meant to say. I get the feeling that if what they say is questioned, they will put a spin on it to change it to a different meaning."

    "...I see his {Obama's} lack of experience as a huge plus."

    I also want to add that I am a white, female, conservative Christian, independant, anti-abortion, anti-capital punishment, anti-war in Iraq. Where does that leave me?

    What suprs me is the CHARACHTER and TRUTH of any candidate, Republican or Democrat. I have not made a decision, but Obama seems to have the charachter to tell the truth. I pray that being a Washintonier does not change that. We are the "people", red and yellow, black and white, all are precious...

    January 13, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  13. David

    It's amazing how little we know history. In 1964 when the civil right bill was passed, M. L. King said himself that without President Johnson the civil right might not have been realize. Obama said he never made any comment, but all his staffers, and suports have. You could call this the Obama two step. The Obama campaign only hope of winning is to use the race card. He doesn't have the ability to be president at this time, wake America. Clinton is the hope for the blacks, and Hispanic community to have some kind of representation.

    January 13, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  14. rio_abajo

    I am a democrat but if Hillary is elected i will not vote for HER. What a joke she is. She is the one who made the racial comment about MLK to Fox and now she's trying to blame Obama.

    January 13, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  15. Susan

    The Ardelia Texas writer must not realize that Hillary is ahead in the race. Reading news from Blogs or actually reading news? Speaking of news, the cocaine is not new because he wrote it in his book. However, I do feel the COCAINE use is a pretty big deal and is fair game in a presidential candidacy. When Senator Clinton was in the community doing good works, Obama was snorting. This is fact and it is relevant. I will not vote for this man because of his speeches. And that leaves me no other reason to consider him. Go Senator Clinton. Fact and record over rhetoric and hype.

    I also have to respond to the "anybody but Clinton" comments. They are so juvenile. You don't really mean that you would vote for just anybody else. What a stupid, scary, and ignorant way to look at election choices. This talk just encourages ignorance. Please bump it up an intellectual notch.

    January 13, 2008 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  16. Braden Friedman

    I have always been a liberal and for the last 2 years an avid Obama supporter, and up until about 2 weeks ago I beleived Hillary would be a great alternative for the democratic nominee. NOT ANY MORE!!!!!!!! Her latest round of low brow politicking and smear campaigning makes me want ot vote republican next November. Her calculated diatribes aimed at Barak literally are pushing me to an FU vote, completely founded in spite. I'd vote McCain, Romney- whoever . I consider myself a rational person, but my resentment for Mrs. Clinton has grown unbelievable even to me.

    January 13, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  17. Jeff - Illinois

    While I wouldn't call myself a raving fan of Bill Clinton, as modern presidents go I thought he was decent. There is no way I will vote for Hillary now, not after witnessing her the past month or so.

    I had planned to vote for Hillary if she got the nomination only if the opponent was McCain or Giuliani. Now I know I will be abstaining should she face either of them, and voting Republican possibly if the nominee is other than those two.

    Otherwise, Obama or Edwards > All.

    January 13, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  18. Jonathan

    I am personally disgusted by the comments made by Mr. Johnson and by the recent actions of Mrs. Clinton. I wish they would focus their attention on policy issues and stop trying to attack Mr. Obama for giving us "hope." They same hope that the Clintion's decried as false and unobtainable. Are the Clintons that afraid that a black man, who she was leading by several percentage points a few weeks ago, may win the democratic nomination for president? Or, is this another way that our supposed first "black" president, Bill Clinton, is another apple that has not fallen far from the tree? Interesting isnt it!

    January 13, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  19. nihal

    The level of this campaign is sinking so fast, that it will soon reach a depth that even Americans find disgusting. However, it must be added that, compared to the Clinton camp, the other democratic candidates (and entourage) – not to mention the republicans – have certainly shown some class. Is the Clinton situation so desperate?

    January 13, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  20. Kevin

    Make it stop, please. I hope the Clinton's realize the damage they are doing to the Democratic party. I am an independent who planned on voting Democratic this election based on my dislike for the way the Bush administration handled the past 7 years. However, if Obama does not get the nomination, my vote will likely go to McCain. At least, he tells it like it is.

    January 13, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  21. Dianne

    No one is stating the fact that electing Hillary Clinton is putting Bill Clinton back into office. There are people (me for one) who liked Bill Clinton as President. I feel many people are voting for Bill Clinton through Hillary. Through all the forums and television pertaining to the election I have yet for this to be mentioned. You really can't get one without the other (Bill and Hillary). Hillary is a strong women and is politically educated..but this came from being married to the once President of the United States. If we truly want change we can't put Bill Clinton back into office. I feel Obama is the best candidate and Edwards is next. But, I also fear for Obama. There is too much hate in these United States and it starts at the top. Edwards has a heart and has rolled up his pants and involved himself with the people and knows of the corruptions in these United States. But, whomever we vote for they will not be able to introduce their improvements until they are in office at least two years. The first two will belong to Bush's office of the laws and other things he will put into place before he leaves.

    January 13, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  22. Rick

    Shame that Hillary's allows her campaign to try to start something to take the view off the fact that she has brought race into this and her husband can not handle the fact his wife is losing. Once again, Bill and Hill, grow up, the people of the United States are tired of your way and want change from your washington status quo. So what now Hillary, another tear, another whine, another cry for sympathy. Fool us once shame on you, fool us twice shame on us.......................

    January 13, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  23. Angela

    Hillary and Bill seem to think one day we will get to the "mountain top" just not on their watch.

    January 13, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  24. John M.

    Revolting gutter politics by the Clinton campaign and all of her shills on this site. It's low to go after someone for drug use. It's low to distort someone's legislative record. It's low to engage in voter suppression tactics (see NH and NV). The win in IA finally cracked Hillary's shell. Now we are seeing the real Clintons for what they are.

    January 13, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  25. Ade

    For this guy to have said those things and come back to twist his words is an insult to Americans. He feels that you Americans are stupid, and you are not able to read between the lines. It also shows that Johnson is stupid. I challenge him to take a lie detector test to prove that he also did not sell or use drugs during his teenage/youth years

    January 13, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
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