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. Roz

    Well Hillary and Mr. Johnson, thanks for making my mind up for me on who to vote for. Missy u just lost my vote. The crying game won me over, but not the mud slinging "so JUVENILE". i'll vote republican first, before i vote for you.

    January 13, 2008 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  2. Byron Boone, Chicago, Il.

    That was a long time ago and who really cares if he smoked. Does that disqualify someone from being president? I hope not. She has become desperate and it's sad to see. Nobody from the Obama camp has mentioned the fact that it was her husband that was caught with his pants down and it almost cost him his presidency for lying to say nothing of the cost of the investigation. But I guess some things are more acceptable than others.

    January 13, 2008 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  3. joan skipper


    January 13, 2008 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  4. mike

    there is risk for both here, if hillary, at first, did not mean the remarks she made and somehow tried valanty to now inject it to see where it would lead(hoping to turn and divide others) then very possibly it could backfire. and obama should not be baited into tlaking about his race and defending it. just keep doing what he is doing and subtly defend mlk for his civil rights movement and not lbj.

    January 13, 2008 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  5. Ron

    I never wavered on Obama, he has my support and I don't care what the Clintons have in store! She's divisive and American needs to move in a new direction. Bill and Hillary are using a back door appoach to have Bill serve a third term in the White House!

    January 13, 2008 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  6. Mike, Land O Lakes, FL

    I never voted Republican in my life, but should Hilary win, I might just vote Republican...very sad!!!

    January 13, 2008 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  7. Kendall, San Francisco, Ca

    Who wrote Bob Johnson's speech? Karl Rove?!

    January 13, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  8. From an independent

    Get back to real issues. The Clinton's rarely stay on task and are not good for our country. Getting really tired of them!

    January 13, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  9. Warren

    Bob Johnson has sold out again. He's a fake...The Clinton's are the worst . I voted for Bill, but we are begining to see where they stand for. They will do and say anything to get elected, even a the cost of pulling down there own party member. Two thumbs down...Talk about the issues and stop trying to divide the house

    January 13, 2008 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  10. Ron, ca

    Looks like everyone is betting on Obama. But to me, Obama is just a big no- substance talker or even a liar. He has no governing experience at all but giving out so much promises. Frankly, I don't know what is in this guy's mind. America needs needs new hope, but we don't need a risk to ourselves. Obama is a big risk to American people, period.

    January 13, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  11. Terry

    Obama is publishing negative talking points on race and Dr. King that are alledgedly attributed to Clinton. His fingerprints are all over this stuff and he is denying it. What about the truth for a change? I'd have a lot more respect for Obama if he had taken responsibility for his actions. I'm voting for a candidate that tells the truth and accepts responsibility for their actions.

    January 13, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  12. Kelvin from newyork city

    For some of the comments i read i think some people should think before they talk . I don't want another election like in 2000 where the vote was not counted and rush to war.

    January 13, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  13. SL

    The media obsesses over Romney's religion...somehow it is supposed to be relevant....but someone even hits at Obama's drug use and everyone is freaking out about nasty politics???? Quite an election.

    January 13, 2008 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  14. Arnita Cousins

    I agree with you Jude, BET is not uplifting to blacks or people at all!!!!

    January 13, 2008 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  15. John, Lincoln NE

    I have read through many of these posts. Clinton supporters who have posted here, come on now. How do you possibly defend this? Just one time how about a "oops, my bad."? Try some accountability every now and then.

    January 13, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  16. Lou

    Ignore the Media. They like to hype things up so everyone can't see the real issue. The real issue is that everyone has to ask themsevles: "who has a better chance of winning the General Election. Period."

    January 13, 2008 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  17. Mark

    Bob Johnson is in no position to criticize anyone about anything. His BET station pushes more youth to drugs than any dealer in America. The Clinton's are taking the Bush/Rove route to this election. Gutter politics at it's best.

    January 13, 2008 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  18. Voting Barak '08

    Okay Bob Jonston has lotsssssssssssss of nerve! For those who don't know, this man became a BILLIONAIRE by pimping his own race. Creating a television station that did nothing but play demoralizing music videos nearly 24 hours per day. Black Entertainment Television was/is nothing more than a farce.
    So before Bob speaks of what someone has done for the Black community, he needs to take a look in the mirror. Or better yet, take a look in his bank account and reflect on how he got it.

    SECONDLY...this is nothing more than the politics of division. Get a prominent/affluent Black person to criticize Obama so the rest of the race will flock to her. And HILLARY is saying that OBAMA is playing the race card???

    THIRD...folks, it appears that a lot of folks think that this stunt of hers is ludicrous as well. Why not mobilize and print this article out and send it out to as many Nevada voters as you can...hey, stamps are just .45 cents people!!! And I'm sure if you look on anywho.com you can get a listing of many adults in Nevada. It's about action folks, not talk.

    This is Hillary's third sick stunt this week (crocodile tears, MLK comments, and now the Bob Johnson mess). Enough is enough!!!

    January 13, 2008 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  19. Chris, AZ

    To attack someone for being honest...
    ... that tells me more about the Clintons then about Obama.

    January 13, 2008 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  20. Brett

    This is yet another example of the news media consistently publishing articles that are mostly negative about Senator Clinton. I was at this rally and Senator Clinton wasn't even around for what Bob Johnson had to say. Its just ridiculous because regardless of what this man says, he said it on his own. This story has quite simply been blown out of proportions.

    The media is getting to the point of being ridiculous. All it has to report anymore is the little bit of mud they can find to sling back in forth between the candidates. It certainly doesn't report the positive occurrences in anyone's campaigns and it certainly seems to neglect, for the most part, the issues that should be the core of this race.

    January 13, 2008 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  21. James, California

    Many Black-Americans out there have let slide and even accepted comments like how Bill Clinton was the so-called first Black-American president without realizing the deeply embedded racist message that an actual Black-American could not possibly become the president so that that distinction must go to a white man. Many are now letting slide and accepting comments about Obama like how he has little or no experience, how he has done nothing significant for Americans, how he has done nothing for Black-Americans, how he has done drugs, how he is incapable of handling the responsibilities and performing the tasks of a president without realizing the deeply embedded racist stereotyping and message that a Black-American cannot possibly be qualified as the president. Wake up Black-Americans. Obama is truly an impressive person with many stunning personal accomplishments, who has accomplished many significant things for Americans including Black-Americans, who has gained respect from many on both sides of the party, who actually has more experience as an elected politician than Hillary, who has extremely clean background for a politician, and who is actually a true Black-American and not a white person with a blackface makeup playing up to the crowd. I'm not a Black-American but I can see right through this BS. Wake up Black-Americans. The best person for America right now happens to be a Black-American man. Don't be duped and feel ashamed when Obama makes history.

    January 13, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  22. Carole CA

    I'm sure all you Republican plants who have posted hundreds of Hillary-bashing blogs here are high-fiving and laughing your heads off. Believe me, your wild, baseless lies only work to reinforce the strength and resolve of Hillary's supporters. Most of the pro-Hillary comments are well-written, thoughtful, and sincere. I believe that the real Obama supporters write good comments as well. But the minute I read comments over-flowing with hatred, lies, and distortions about the Clintons, I know it is most likely not written by an Obama supporter. I believe you Republicans are simply following your Republican talking points and denigrating Hillary every time she makes a move. Your party is terrified of facing her in the general election and will do anything to stop her. You are all a bunch of mindless wimps, hiding behind fake names.

    To all Obama and Hillary supporters: I hope you will keep posting positive comments about your candidate: talk about their records, things they've accomplished, the issues that are important to them and you, and tell us exactly why you feel your candidate is the best. It would be like a breath of fresh air to be able to read some civil discourse here.

    January 13, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  23. Supermds

    I saw the clip and Bob Johnson was clearly referring to Obama's drug use. If you are bold enough to go there uncle Bob, then be man enough to admit it. This is the man who gave us BET and its horrible stereotypical fare, and he has the nerve to try to cast aspersions on someone else's good name? Bob Johnson has always been all about the dollar. At least Obama has worked for the greater good. Johnson needs to stick to subpar entertainment if he can't at least play fair.

    January 13, 2008 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  24. Nick ny, ny

    Parama- If Obama gets the nomination, republican candidate gets nine votes in our household. If hillary gets the nomination, we will gladly vote for her.

    If Hillary gets the nomination, republican candidate gets two votes in our household. If Barack gets the nomination, we will gladly vote for him.

    January 13, 2008 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  25. SC for Hillary

    To all South Carolina Democratic voters, please do not waste your vote on Barack Obama, he will not, and cannot win the national president election. Let's be honest with ourselves, in Iowa, he won with Independent voters, which means an Independent voter can vote for either party, using reverse psycology, to knock Hillary out of the primary, knowing that she is the only Democratic nonminee who can defeat the republicans, who are afraid of her, the independents voted for Obama in the primary, In the November election, all those independents will run back to the republicans thus reelecting a republican president. Don't be fooled, vote for someone who can win the election, that is Hillary Clinton', Don't waste your vote, make it count. Do not give the Republicans another four years in office,
    a vote for Obama is a vote for McCain down the stretch, a vote for Hillary is a vote
    for the next president of the United States.

    January 13, 2008 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
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