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. Youth Voter, USA

    Sad to see Obama can not control his campaign. There cant be smoke without fire. He is allowing the twisting of the comments which is leading to people commenting on it. And his supporters are spreading it via the blogs and media.

    January 13, 2008 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  2. susan

    O'bama's use of drugs in the past should not be the primary consideration for why people might or might not vote for him, but it is indicative of what we do not know about him -- we know everything there is to know about hillary clinton-- its fair game to know as much about obama -– this does not even approach a dirty trick -- if you think it does, just wait until t he republicans get ahold of him in the fall -– stop accusing hillary of being unfair - its obama that apparently used drugs - better democrats know about it now while they are still trying to pick a candidate than later after they already have

    January 13, 2008 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  3. Wayne

    The Obama campaign is playing the race card. Did any of you really buy his holier than thou act?

    January 13, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |

    If we want a democrate in the white house starting 2009, we better hope John or Barrack represents us during the November election. I am a register democrate and been voting party line all my life. I am getting tired of the Faketons. NO MORE CLINTON PLEASE!

    January 13, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  5. paul

    I used to think that I would vote for the democratic candidate no matter what but now I am not so sure. Clinton's campaign is turning so ugly and sneaky I can't stand it. It is clear that it is all about regaining power. Hopefully Obama gets the nomination so I don't have to be tormented in the voting booth.

    January 13, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  6. Auturo Roberts

    We as informed voters should not condone destructive and counterproductive behavior from our elected officials. Lets not be distracted by unwarranted and ugly politics that is being generated by the Clinton machine and their handlers.

    It’s refreshing to hear from someone with true life experiences, we can trust to tell us the truth.

    We Dem’s should take the high road and stay focus on electing a President we can trust and who can unite all Dems and Rep.

    If Mrs. Clinton wins I am plan on voting for Sen. McCain.

    Bama 08 is what America needs.

    January 13, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  7. Rob

    I say its time to split the Democratic Party. If Hillary win I will vote Republican!

    January 13, 2008 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  8. EntertainMeDontBoreMe

    Excuse me – but as a lifelong Democrat, I would just like to inquire whether someone would please ask Hillary to please withdraw from the race. Her campaign is becoming more embarassing every day.

    January 13, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  9. Bill Wood

    On Meet the Press on Sunday 13 January, Hillary Clinton offered the following observation as part of a very long and rambling response to a question Tim Russert asked regarding what message the Clinton campaign was trying to project with Bill Clinton’s comment describing Obama’s effort as “the biggest fairy tale we have ever seen” and Hillary Clinton’s comment that “we don’t need false hopes.”

    “When Senator Obama’s chief strategist accused me of playing a role in Benazir Bhutto’s assassination there is silence.”

    Woaaa! Did our presumptive future president just say that Obama’s campaign manager, David Axelrod, had accused her of complicity in Bhutto’s death?

    Here is the actual exchange which took place on 27 December 2007 between Obama’s campaign manager and a member of the press corps:

    REPORTER: But looking ahead, does the assassination put on the front burner foreign policy credentials in the closing days?

    AXELROD: Well, it puts on the table foreign policy judgment, and that’s a discussion we welcome. Barack Obama had the judgment to oppose the war in Iraq, and he warned at the time it would divert us from Afghanistan and al Qaeda, and now we see the effect of that. Al Qaeda’s resurgent, they’re a powerful force now in Pakistan, they may have been involved — we’ve been here, so I don’t know whether the news has been updated, but there’s a suspicion they may have been involved in this. I think his judgment was good. Senator Clinton made a different judgment, so let’s have that discussion.

    Excuse me, but you would have to live in a world without colors, or even shades of grey, to dismiss Axelrod’s observation in the way that Senator Clinton did before a national audience on Meet the Press. The last seven years have shown this nation all too clearly what kind of leadership we can expect from a president who can only see the world in black and white terms. It would seem from her remarks this morning that Mrs. Clinton is anxious to extend this un-nuanced right versus wrong dichotomy for at least another four years.

    January 13, 2008 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  10. Bob Johnson

    Johnson and Clinton's campaign need to stop taking pot shots at Obama and then trying to cover up their childish comments. How is "Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing but he said it in his book" a euphemism for "time spent as a community organizer." Johnson needs to man up or step down as head of BET. He is simply creating a divide within the african-american community rather than trying to galvanize this subsect of the population to become politically active.

    January 13, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  11. ebp

    I thought that Hillary would be my second choice if Obama didn't win the nomination, but since she and Bill have refreshed my memory with their dirty politics, I'd never vote for her no matter what.

    January 13, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  12. pbj, San Ramon, CA

    I don't really care much about Obama's drug use, but the idea that somehow the Clinton campaign can't bring up the fact that Obama used illegal drugs is pretty amazing. What if he had robbed a bank or stolen a car? That would be off limits as well as a divisive personal attack?

    I think Obama' drug use is fair game, in case anyone cares, but my only opinion on the issue is that at least Obama told the truth, unlike (Bill) Clinton claiming he never inhaled. Talk about a fairy tale! Ranks up there with the other Clinton fairy about not having sex with that woman.

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

    Hillary Clinton and her supporters I think are playing with fire. It's the same old Clinton nasty politics that their famous for. I wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton ever.

    January 13, 2008 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  14. Anne-Marie Marquise

    Can we all just agree that people are human, and everyone has made mistakes. Every candidate, every voter, every news correspondent has done things they regret, it's part of being a human being. I am grateful that Barack Obama has never claimed to be a perfect man, and had the forethought to talk about his life up front with the American people. Some people like to look down from their pedestals and judge someone for something they did as a young man, and use it against them now... isn't this just classic political bull**** that is used to distract us voters from the important things. I dream of the day that Barack Obama becomes our President and we can all stand up and be proud of our country again. Barack Obama has been clear that he will not participate in the traditional negative tactics that people like Hillary Clinton and her supporters are using out of desperation to discredit him. Those of us who are invested and know the issues and pay much more attention than the "news highlights" understand that choosing Barack Obama as our President is the best choice for us. We need someone in the White House who knows how to unite people for a greater cause. Regardless of your political party, Obama respects everyone's opinion and understands that it is going to take everyone working together to solve the serious challenges our country faces. Hillary Clinton has alienated so many that she will NOT be able to unite parties and again we will be gridlocked and nothing will be accomplished.

    January 13, 2008 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  15. Adrian

    I will NEVER vote for Hillary! She is an evil, cold, calculated woman. The Clintons should be ashamed of themselves. If Hillary wins the nomination, I will stay home on election night! It will kill me, but I simply cannot vote for her. The dirty tricks are disgusting! The "Can't Do" Clintons need to retire this fairy tale they have of a 3rd term! Time for a new era in America... a CAN DO era!

    January 13, 2008 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  16. Bimmer

    Obama's team suggestion of Cintons being racist (towards African Americans) is as absurd as suggesting that His Holiness the Pope is an atheist.

    January 13, 2008 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  17. corky

    Why are you all blaming Hillary? Hillary did not bring race as an issue into presidential race it was Obama himself . Watched him today in Vegas speaking about slavery, what happened to black people in Montgomery Alabama and more. Obama is the one using the race card and personally I find it discussing on his part instead of playing the race card for votes he should be sticking to the issues affecting America not race. Obama is dividing the country instead of uniting everyone. I am not impressed with him he has said a whole lot of nothing. Running for President means you are elected by the people, for the people, and for all residents of this great country.

    January 13, 2008 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  18. Ray in Las Vegas

    How hypocritical can you get? The programming on BET is not only degrading to women with their late night videos, it glorifies gangster culture, including drug use and crime. Bob Johnson has become a billionaire by exploiting his own people in the most negative way. Bob Johnson was purveying filth to an entire generation of vulnerable youth while Barack Obama was working in the most troubled communities of Chicago, uplifting the powerless.

    Tactics like these show how desperate the Clinton campaign has become, crawling into bed with slimeballs. Keep it up, Hillary! You are digging your own political grave with friends like these. Obama is 21st Century, while you are old news.

    January 13, 2008 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  19. jones

    This goes deeper; he had to buy the drugs from someone. What crimes took place? I am African American and I want to know. This is not about race. And yes; it did take the support of white Americans (Lyndon Johnson) to pass the Civil Rights Act

    January 13, 2008 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  20. Jason

    Obama's drug use should definitely be an issue, we have the right to know these things. My goodness, he could possibly end up being our next president. He is a public figure; therefore, shouldn't be surprised when every little detail of his life gets scrutinized. What do we really know about Obama thus far anyway? Not enough.

    January 13, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  21. Pamela Armstrong

    What offends me the most is that every time a comment is made about Obama the media immediately jumps on Senator Clinton. Why is Obama allowed to attack Sen. Clinton? When real issues are posed about the character of Obama, then the media tries to make Sen. Clinton or anyone who supports her to be the bad guy. If Obama really wants to be the next President of the USA, he better get used to answering tough questions and the idea of his personal life being under the close eyes of the American Citizens. Just ask the Clintons. As an African American, I am also offended that Obama wants us to forget what was done under the Clinton campaign. Instead of attacking Senator Clinton, I suggest that he start laying a foundation of why we should vote for him - other than the fact that he is a fellow African American.

    January 13, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  22. MT

    Hillary is disgusting. Nothing is too low

    January 13, 2008 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  23. Amelia, IL

    Where was Senator Clinton four years ago with her "30 plus years of experience " when the country needed someone " qualified" to run against George W. Bush? I guess she was not ready to stand up for change an show leadership. It's really pathetic she is upset that the GREAT Senator ,Barack Obama from IL, made the decision to run for President in order to heal and unify are country. The only thing Senator Clinton's campaign has shown is the ability to delve into dirty and negitive politics. These underhanded tactics shows a lack of character,entegrity, and most of all experience! This is what the country needs to move away from and avoid at all cost. I must agree with the GREAT Senator from IL, the Clinton's are running a very sad campaign.

    January 13, 2008 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  24. Akilah,CA

    If Billary wins I am going to work very hard for the Republican candidate.

    She is divisive and desparate and I could not vote for her under any circumstances.
    Obama 08 we need a difference maker in this country, I rather take a chance with someone that lacks experience.

    Billary is a Megalomaniac.

    January 13, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  25. Bimmer

    Let's get real here.

    This gentleman, BOb Johnson, who looks very distinguished in the photo1 and is being attacked by the bloggers here, is not the culprit.

    The culprit is the one who used drugs and is running for the Presidency of the USA.

    What else did he do?

    Voters have a right to know.

    January 13, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
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