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. Banko

    Did Bill Clinton inhale?

    January 13, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  2. Lia Johnson

    Go Hillary!

    January 13, 2008 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  3. B, USA


    January 13, 2008 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  4. Matt

    I knew – just knew – that this race would end up playing out like this. Obama cannot beat Clinton on the merits of the campaign, so he (and/or his campaign handlers) now tries to alienate African-American voters by implying that Clinton is a racist. How utterly ridiculous. I was undecided until this recent development, now I am 100% for Clinton. I am disappointed in you Senator Obama. You claim to be different, but you appear to be a wolf in sheep clothing.

    January 13, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  5. NickNas

    I won't Vote for Hillary OR watch BET again EVER or allow it in my House. She wins I sit this one out.

    January 13, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  6. Fp

    Yes, Bob Johnson. The same Bob Johnson who onced owned BET. The same Bob Johnson who when he owned BET had videos playing morning, noon and night that glorified drugs, gangster life, denegration of women non-stop. Are we talking about the same Bob Johnson? Yes, let's make our millions from the the least able then try to put down a man who is trying to do good by this country. Yes, I'm black and yes I was appalled in the way he as owner of BET portrayed black people on his network. Yes, there were good shows, but the majority of it was the demeaning videos.

    Truthfully, I can see why he would support the Clinton's they are right up his alley.

    January 13, 2008 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  7. Rachel

    I'd rather have Clinton for president!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 13, 2008 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  8. B, USA

    BUSH 1989-1993

    CLINTON 1993-2001

    BUSH 2001-2009

    CLINTON 2009???? NOT

    January 13, 2008 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  9. Jaik , chicago, IL

    Actually CNN is the one raising this played out drug "issue" again. CNN is printing it when it is a non-story. They made it front page on their website even. CNN is playing politics. Making news instead of reporting. Disgraceful.

    January 13, 2008 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  10. joyo

    i am sick of Hillary, she is depressing, can you imagine four years of this garbage, garbage in, garbage out. Does Hillary not think she can win a campaign without attacking others, I am sick, sick , and more sick of her and her cronies. Bob Johnson the audacity of looser.

    January 13, 2008 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  11. Marcus - Greenville, SC

    Why does Obama and his supporters want to avoid the mention of drug use? He was the one who chose to write about it..... His reactions make me think when he wrote the book he had no intention of actually running for President. If so, he would be comfortable talking about the issue. He obviously is a man of impulse. Running for President takes alot of planning and preparation – which he obvioulsy did neither. Here's a thought for Obama and all of his supporters: Ignoring the facts don't change the facts.

    January 13, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  12. Jacob, Savannah, GA

    Please tell us who Hussein Obama is!!

    January 13, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  13. todd

    Republicans want hillary so they can pull out thier base with hate. Besides being a little boring, she is way too washington now and has become another lobbyist tool. Obama is the only choice.

    January 13, 2008 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  14. GaConservative007

    The Clinton's are liars and so are their hangers-on. Anybody But Hillary!!!!!!

    January 13, 2008 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  15. Josh

    I am amazed at what the Hillary camp is attempting to do and it is so obvious to the American people. You could never unite the nation and I will never vote for you, even if you are the nominee!

    Obama 08!

    January 13, 2008 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  16. Paul

    Last Monday on CNN, Hillary's Biographer said " this election for Clintons it's about themselves, not for the country"

    How true! They will do any thing to get the nomination, even loosing their integrity.

    For Johnson, I don't know if he is following the nomination that close. Obama never said any thing about her comments of Dr. MLK. If Johnson had a respect of Dr. MLK, he should have asked her to appolgize. It shows you how arrogant this Johnson is.

    These Clinton/Bush dynasty must have to finish for America and the world to live in peace and harmony. I would vote again for any Republican than these sick and dirty Clintons. I don't want even to see them in any TV station, let alone to torture us for the next four years.

    Go Clintons away from our life. Bush makes much honest personality than the Clintons.

    January 13, 2008 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  17. Long Island Dad

    When Hillary and her campaign surrogates get nervous, things turn ugly. When it happened once or twice, I could excuse it as a fluke. Now that it's turned into a pattern, however, it's impossible to simply write off.

    I never thought I'd see Karl Rove-like smear politics from the Clintons, but if you live long enough I guess you see everything. Shame on them - Obama's got my vote now for sure!

    January 13, 2008 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  18. Jacob, Savannah, GA

    As too the blacks that have made the comments that Hillary can't get to the White House without you,, check your demographics again,, Obama can't get to the White House without us, and if you want us to prove it, keep up the racial tones!!

    January 13, 2008 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  19. RealB.G., Sacramento, California

    Have you no decency!

    January 13, 2008 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  20. bill

    Glad to see the Republicans feel it necessary to post against Clinton at every opp.
    You don't have a candidate and well know Hillary just may be the next president. What's the statute of limitations on an admitted coke user about to become the next president? What do we tell our children when they say I was just experimenting like our president!! Some people to need to realize that just because you KNOW you have a deep secret and it will be found out coming clean DOESN'T make it right! We have the right to know these things as well as as any substantive postion on at least a couple of the issues. So far its been "I am going to bring on change." In my opinion Obama can be considered the playstation3 candidate. Hopefully people will realize this is not a game.

    January 13, 2008 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  21. av3

    I HAVE A LOT MORE RESPECT FOR SOMEONE WHO IS OPEN AND HONEST ABOUT THEIR MISTAKES AND DOESNT TRY TO DENY OR EDIT THEM. If this is how Obama would run his white house, he is definitely vote-worthy.

    January 13, 2008 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  22. Robb, New York

    Hey Bob, before saying what you said about Obama's drug use, did you ask Hillary about how she felt when Bill said he "tried it" but "didn't inhale?" HYPOCRITES! Anybody associated with the Clintons is a hypocrite. A vote for Hillary is about as good as a vote for Bush.

    January 13, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  23. Mike

    "Bill IS running. It is a co-presidency."

    I think not. It would both be illegal and unconstitutional for Bill Clinton to be president again. The Constitution clearly states that no person who has served two terms as president shall serve again, and that would a so-called "co-presidency."

    January 13, 2008 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  24. Bryan

    Obama's drug use is hardly an issue. Bush was an alcoholic, with a likely history of DUI's. Bill Clinton was known to have smoked marijuana. We need to look for a change, and the only one in the Democratic field offering a positive change, a new generation, is Barack Obama.

    January 13, 2008 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  25. romeo752

    Once again Mr. Johnson finds away to insult the Black community. I suppose once a sellout always a sellout! Tom is not only a name for a turkey....

    January 13, 2008 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
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