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. pshylock

    I think the Clintons are digging their own grave!
    (metaphorically not literally)

    January 13, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  2. liz

    Wow excuse me but your comments and the venom that spills onto these boards is not in anyway making me even consider voting for Sen. Obama. What is this pathology he elicts from his supposed supporters. Or is this really disguised lack of respect and contempt for women which is Sen. Clinton brings out in your actions and words. As a women Ido know quite a few women who would destroy her own kind in support of a less qualified man so the comments by women(if they are really women) do not in anyway surprise me.

    This is about race because the Obama camp has made it that way they are smearing two people who have worked for equality their whole life. I don't know if Obama is behind this. He may not be he is too inexperienced and has never ran anything, he may not be in control of his campaign at this point. I am so glad she is showing her true strength , how long did all of these men think she was going to sit around and take it. After all you know us women most of us only take so much then we plan your demise. It is well known that the Hillary has never had any love for the male dominated media so their shock on the night of NH win was priceless. We also know who votes in election and who does not so keep those polls a coming....

    January 13, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  3. AN, Fairfax, VA

    Where there's slime, there's always a Clinton. tt's no coincidence. Go Obama.

    January 13, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  4. 1000Steps

    If you don't see the Clinton smear machine running their usual tricks, frankly, you are blind or delusional

    January 13, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  5. Nathan, Melbourne, Victoria

    It's a good point to be made to Al Sharpton and his racist friend's. Hillary Clinton was fighting for African Americans and the issues that are important to them when Obama was snorting cocaine. Play the race card if you want Obama supporters, but there was reason many in the African American community called Bill Clinton the 'first black president'. Don't be surprised now if the Clinton's play the muslim card and the Obama did cocaine card.

    January 13, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  6. 1000Steps

    Ellie, if I get someone to do my dirty work, ud is still on my hands.

    January 13, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  7. Agron

    Go HILL...GO...BABE..

    Michigan for HILL 08

    January 13, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  8. deborahglabais@hotmail.com

    So Obama had a past and he did some drugs (which he admitted to the world long ago). What has that got to do with his abilities today? At least he did not tell some "fairy tale" that he didn't inhale like Clinton put out there.
    As for playing the race card, Obama has not done this and now the Clintons seem to want to make this an issue with their insidious little remarks. What has this got to do with the election anyway?
    I would hope voters base their decision on the quality and ability of the candidate to do the job; gender and race should not be a factor. If Obama wins the next round, watch for Hillary to have another cry (cause shes losing) and Bill to come out whining about unfair treatment by the press again.
    The mud slinging is a total turn off and takes away from the real issues and who might be the best person for the job. While I have not made a final decision myself, you can bet that the Clintons are on the bottom of the pile. Hilary becoming the first woman president is of no importance to anyone but her and Bill and they would do well to remember what this election is really about.

    January 13, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  9. antonia Gonzalez Seattle Washington

    What a jerk, and for Hillary to just stand by and say nothing makes her even. I am a Hispanic voter and I watch, read and listen to the candidates carefully because to this day I was not 100% decided; however more and more she is turning me off. She's no different then the Republicans and that Fox channel.

    January 13, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  10. A. Goodwin

    Ellie, CA: People are coming down on Hillary not because she made the comments, but because she stood by and didn't say a word. Hillary Clinton is a complete hypocrite if she wants to bring out the drug card – but we all know she's a hypocrite anyway. She slams Obama for hiring a former lobbyiest to run his NH campaign, but she's taken MORE money from lobbiests – republican and democrats combined!!! I could go on and on.

    I live in NH and I know the numbers – just remember, she might have one by a few percentage points but who picked up more delagates??? OBAMA.

    Sadly, if you Clinton supporters just took a step back, you'd realize that if Hillary gets the Democratic nomination – us Democrats are doomed. Republicans HATE her, and most Democrats are about done with her too. Do we really want McCain as our president? Wake up, people.

    Obama gets slammed for being truthful about taking drugs as a teen, and yet you put Hillary on a pedistal for being holier than thou? Please – like Clinton didn't inhale...that is the most rediculous thing I've ever heard. Sorry – I have more respect for the person who is honest.

    January 13, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  11. RH


    January 13, 2008 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  12. Mike Ewing

    Who is Bob Johnson too be running his mouth when he's peddling that garbage on BET? It's a joke, he need to take that foolishness off the air it's nothing but pure poison on our community.

    January 13, 2008 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  13. Lisa Gross

    I agree with many of you, I too will vote for a republican for the first time in my voting history if Hillary Clinton is our nominee! I do have to admit there is only a limited selection for me, that is I would vote for Huckabee and thats about it! I would probably vote for an independent before I vote for any of the other republicans. I would prefer a democrat and I want that democrat to be Barack Obama!!!!! He ,I believe can unite thiscountry! I am ready to be united! I am ready to stand with people of all races and gender and vote for Barack Obama! I am ready to make a pledge here and now that I will try very hard to not judge people by their race and gender and try very hard to except people's differences. This is how Barack Obama make me feel, he makes me want to be a better person for the good of our nation and the world! GO OBAMA!

    January 13, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  14. Chase

    What's in it for him?

    I don't really take his comments seriously.

    January 13, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  15. Demn Speaks The Truth

    Wasn't G Dubb a raving cokehead and a drunk through most of the 70s and 80s?

    Not to mention....

    What has Bob Johnson EVER done for anybody other than peddle garbage to our children?

    Well....what can you expect from the camp of a former Barry Goldwater girl?


    January 13, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  16. AnAmerican

    How do that get away with this....

    BET = Black Entertainment Television.

    If there was a WET = White Entertainment Television network there would be an uproar by certain groups.

    One more example of something that is just not right.

    This is not equality... it is polarization and a promotion of divisiveness by another person that has too much money and too much power to sway the people.

    Americans UNITE!

    January 13, 2008 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  17. Frank

    I am more certain everyday ... as a Democrat I would not vote for Hillary Clinton ! I am fairly certain that I and my wife will want to offset two votes of the Hillary Clinton backers by voting for the opponent in the general election. If she could cheat out the nomination I would do what I can to see her dirty tricks ending in defeat in November !


    January 13, 2008 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  18. B Smith

    Whatever happened to FREEDOM of speech? Every time Hillary camp supporters bring up legitimate concerns, the Obama camp decries ugly politics. This IS America, right? And that means that sometimes we can even express our true reservations about a candidate. Drug use, no substantial record of work, no voting record– all are good points to reinforce that Barack Hussein Obama is not ready to lead the free world.

    Hillary Clinton's supporters are attempting to bring to light the things the REPUBLICAN party most certainly will in a general election.

    If you want a Democrat to win, then vote for one who will fight the best fight. My money's on Hillary!

    January 13, 2008 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  19. Val

    Can we call a truce? We have two very capable people leading in the race for the democratic nomination. They are much more alike than they are different. Either of them will beat a Republican in the general election if we don't defeat them first with all of this negativity. Both campaigns are slinging mud. Stop already! Both have their strengths and believe me if we dig, and not too deep, their weaknesses. I just want a democrat in the White House. Hillary is my preference but I can certainly live with Barack.

    January 13, 2008 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  20. Tim Calhoun '08, Moreno Valley, CA

    "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."

    As a human being, I'm frankly insulted that Johnson would imply that we are so stupid that we would think his comments were about being a community organizer.

    This whole thing is getting ridiculous.

    January 13, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  21. Nicole

    I would be concerned about a candidate's prior drug use. BUT the thing here is why is Bob Johnson's words being attributed to being Hilary Clinton's words???! It's Bob Johnson who said what he said and I don't think what he said was all that bad. I hope you all remember that.

    January 13, 2008 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  22. ben

    This is bad from Hillary and Co. I think you are frustrated. I am turned off. If Hil wins, I am for the one from the otherside of the aisle.

    January 13, 2008 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  23. Tina, S.C


    I would also say the media has been a little sexist.

    January 13, 2008 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  24. Bill

    I concur with many who've submitted comments. Sen. Clinton could have used "Meet the Press" to further explain her priorities and position on issues. But she has chosen to attack. I fear if elected she will contribute to the polarization in this nation, further distracting the populace from attending to the pressing issues of our time(ie. foreign policy, local economic development, education, regeneration of the vast infrastructure throughout the country, etc.). Sadly, Sen. Clinton most focused work dealt with health care reform during her husband's first term. She quickly and sadly emerged as a lightning rod for the lack of civility in Washington, rather than rising above the Republican antics.

    January 13, 2008 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  25. carol

    Obama admitting to drug use should not be an issue. He accepted it was a big mistake and we should not charge people by their past. Who of the canditates doesn't have a past? Let her or him stand up and tell us. Give me a break. Bob Johnson, am shocked too for what you said. As HUckabee said let everyone run a positive compain so that when all this is over you are all able to sit back and say well i run a fair and good campain.Thanks

    January 13, 2008 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
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