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. skip

    In many years of voting, I have always voted for the Democratic candidate for president. I am a Democratic activist and have run twice for public office. I voted twice for Bill Clinton for president, and probably would have voted for him had he been eligible for a third term in 2000.

    That said, I will never vote for Hillary Clinton for president. Judging from several of the previous comments to this thread from Democrats, it seems like the best way to assure a Republican will be in the White House in 2009 is for the Democrats to nominate Hillary Clinton.

    The 2000 and 2004 general election campaigns were truly ugly in their negativity, but those races will look as pleasant and serene as church picnic compared to 2008 if Clinton is the nominee. When a candidate is detested by the opponents - while also disliked by many of those in her own party - how can she possibly win in November?

    And with every underhanded, negative barb thrown by Hillary, Bill or their proxies, the Clinton campaign more and more takes on the pettiness of a middle-school class election. While such tactics may have a chance to work now, it certainly will lead to the most divisive election in recent memory if Clinton is the Democratic candidate.

    And it seems like panic is starting to set in within the party. Is it any wonder more and more high-profile Democrats have begin to throw their support behind candidates other than Clinton?

    Do Democratic voters really want to hand the Republicans another win in November?

    We shall see over the next few months . . .

    January 13, 2008 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  2. concerned citizen, Mesa, Arizona

    Why is no one saying anything about Obama's wife coming out saying in her speech today we will see the blacks come out in South Carolina for them. Why isn't this statement causing a racial divide. You Obama supporters are very narrow minded and only know how to attack the Clintons. I have listened to Obama's all day bringing this up just to fuel hatred towards the Clintons. He plays dirty all the time and no one says anything. I give the African American people more credit then he does. They will vote on the candidate not the color of their skin. And the reason Edwards is not gaining traction is because he keeps jumping on Obama band wagon. If he wants to win he needs to tell the people why to vote for him otherwise it seems he is running for VP.

    January 13, 2008 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  3. mikey

    Where was Hillary, & Bill when 1,000,000 people were murdered in Africa ? Heck ...an even better question is " where was the former president of BET when this mass murder was going on ? Was he out to lunch, busy covering another more important new story ? Or was he doing like Chuck Norris ......equipping to take on the task of preventing the mass murder of so many people since the Holocast .....remember this happened in 1994 folks .......Bill was president ....
    guess his advisers told him not get involved in that one .....while his advisers told him is was of national importance to stop the killings in northern europe
    instead ? Both Bill & Hilliary since you have fought hard for Black people,
    guess this just wasn;t high up your priority list was it ? Please clarify might
    you Bill or have your experienced politically involved wife.

    Refer to Case Study : Genocide in Rwanda 1994

    I await your comments,

    Mikey n Texas

    January 13, 2008 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  4. Shelli

    This is so ridiculous..the fact that Hillary has these black folks fooled is amazing to me...yes I'm a black woman myself...and see right through her fakeness. It's embarassing that Johnson is talking trash about Obama...he probably knows nothing about him. Yea the Clintons NOT inhaling is like me not breathing...it's RIDICULOUS. If she wins the dem nom..I'd hate to vote republican..but would. She has shown me her dark side way too many times.

    January 13, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  5. Tonia

    Give me a break- I have no respect for the comments made by Bob Johnson. Bob Johnson, the founder and at one time owner of BET, which was "supposed" to be short for Black Entertainment Television. I say 'supposed" because as an African American woman, I found that the content aired on what I would call "Buffoon Entertainment Television, offensive. Bob, who has had the medium to empower other African American, have sold his soul to put on content that I can not allow my children to watch. I am glad that Bob is supporting Hillary which even more solidifies in my mind how out of step Hillary truly is with the needs of African Americans if she calls Bob an ally.

    January 13, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  6. lawgirrl

    I have to disclose first and foremost that I am in support of Obama at this time, and that I am an Independent, and a black, 35 year old female. I knew that if Obama did not win the nomination and either Clinton or Edwards did, I would vote for them. I am disgusted with the Clintons in general at this point. If Clinton wins the nomination, I, like I suspect many independents and democrats, will vote for the Republican nominee. I realize all politicians, regardless of party, have to dig in and fight, but her "oh, someone else said it, not me (and now I'll fire them)" tactic is done in my book-over. And her comments about MLK and President LBJ-Didn't she campaign for Barry Goldwater back in the day? There would be no civil rights if he had won! I wasn't even that offended by her MLK/LBJ comments, what's offensive is the overall pattern of behavior. And I really find her ability to lie as smooth as cream disturbing, even when being interviewed by Tim Russert (as sharp as they come in terms of interview style). The Clintons really are superb at retooling the truth. And this BET guy–so let me get this right-BET supports R.Kelly and Michael Vick, and OJ Simpson, but BET turns on Obama? That last point came from my WHITE HUSBAND!!! Even he is disgusted with the hypocrisy of the comments by the BET Founder (oh, that's the channel that plays videos of gangster rappers that denigrate black women who shake their booties on the stripper poles in videos and stay "ho" and the "n–word", but was supposed to be a channel about uplifting the black community. Yeah, right. Way to go BET. He's the founder, but BET honchos need to come out and publicly and vociferously condemn those statements and show their support. This will never happen again-a fantastic, charismatic, brilliant, reasoned candidate-who happens to be black. Once again, black people and Democrats-YOU ARE BLOWING IT. Hillary Cinton as the nominee guarantees another 4 years of a republican president. God Bless America.

    January 13, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  7. S.W.A

    Is this blog owned and paid for by HRC campaign? Where are other stories such as Hillary surrogate NV teachers state union trying to disenfranchise culinary workers union members.. OR... MO Senator Claire McCaskill endorsing Obama?

    January 13, 2008 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  8. Dave

    Typical Clinton politics- " I tried it but didn't inhale", " I never had sex with that woman". Slander from the side and the back and smile up front. If Hillary wins this underhanded nomination process, the repubs can have our votes.

    January 13, 2008 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  9. Brittney Robinson

    Bob Johnson should be ashamed of the comments that came out of his mouth. The way things have been going lately are just down right wrong. My view of the Clintons has definetly gone from bad to worse. Barack definetly has my vote and I hope he overcomes all of this negativity. "One incident" is perhaps an accident, but "several incidents" is no longer just an accident. Hillary Clinton's campaign will do anything to win the nomination no matter how bad it may seem. I hope that America can see through the dishonesty, and underhanded ways of the Clinton campaign. I dont know about the rest of America but this is not the kind of person I would like to see leading the nation.

    January 13, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  10. Al

    Clinton supporters must actually believe Bill's statement "But I didn't inhale". They probably believed Bill's statement that "I did NOT have sexual relations with that woman". Where does it stop? It'll stop when the Clintons are utterly defeated in their attempt to regain the Oval Office. Clinton supporters obviously DON"T care about the truth and must love to be lied to!

    January 13, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  11. WakeupPeople

    All the people that say they are going vote republican for the first time if Hillary is the candidate are most likely republicans in disguise. They are just trying to make democrats think that Hillary is unelectable but in reality these are men who are afraid of women in power. Doesn't anyone else see how deep this issue of sexism is rooted within politics and society today. Hillary is trying to do something that in the eyes of millions is impossible and in some eyes morally wrong (The Christian Right). Much of our country believes women belong in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. She is running against men and it does not matter the color of their skin. They are out to get her, which is obvious by the media headlines (See above) and commentary. Stop falling for it, think for yourself, she is the most qualified, the strongest and has stood up through more adversity than any of the candidates will ever experience.

    Vote Hillary for president!!

    January 13, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  12. Kelly, CA

    Ellie, maybe she didn't make the comment, no that's not the way she works. She has someone else fling the dirt and spread the lies & innuendo on her behalf. You really want four more years of that? Think again, there really is a better way.

    January 13, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  13. Crystal

    Bob Johnson should shut his mouth and stop pointing fingers! Since he is no longer the owner of BET, I guess he has forgotten how he made his millions showcasing Blacks as buffoons, hoes, gangstas and pimps!

    January 13, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  14. lynn

    Obama will win and Hillary will go home. Why cant she attack edwards or someone else. She feels threatened and helpless. Any more Obama attacks is more votes for Obama, so it will be nice to stop attacking and concentrate on nation building

    Obama 08

    January 13, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  15. Mirta

    Uh, did I miss something??? Hillary didn't say this, Johnson did. As usual, it was misinterpreted and spun against Hillary (Obama always gets a free pass on this)
    People are putting words into Johnson's mouth...he didn't say "drugs", people assumed something and were wrong. The sad thing is, no one is brave enough to criticize Obama because they are afraid of being labeled as narrow minded. Is Senator Obama above criticism? Is he that holy? Why is he treated as if he can walk on water?

    January 13, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  16. shs

    phew...and I thought I was going crazy, but apparently there are others like me as well. I'm about as liberal as they come, teach at a liberal university, study liberal American philosophy and poetry, etc...but the word "liberal" also means "libre," as in "free-thinking," and with a little free thinking, my opinion of this race has dramatically changed. I swore six months ago I would vote for a donkey, an actual donkey that is, instead of the republican nominee. After watching Hillary for the past two weeks, I can honestly say that I'm now leaning toward McCain, if it is McCain v. Hillary, which it will be since the Rothschilds and the democratic lobbyists are running this whole fiasco on my "side." Only two differences between them: first, McCain is honest about his wacko foreign policy position, while Hillary lies about her unabashed support for the war until 2005. Second, every one of Hillary's initiatives will be rejected by Senate filibuster, where McCain can work across party lines on domestic policy.

    Watching Meet the Press today, I wanted to just puke, puke my breakfast all over the table, all over the floors, all over the walls, and leave it there for weeks as a symbol to remind me of the putrid stench of the democratic party establishment. Every year we get these establishment candidates. How's that worked out for us....hmmm, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton (thank Perot), Clinton (b/c of Dole), Gore, Kerry, all losses, with one win by cheating and the other by no-brainer. Good win/loss record there. What a haunted house of horror.

    January 13, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  17. Spring, TX

    I have no problem with Clinton bringing up Obama's drug use–it is highly relevant to the elections. Some reliable sources have even stated that Obama sold drugs. All other things equal, I would definitely vote for the person without a drug history.

    January 13, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  18. Jack McQ

    It was disgusting to see Bob Johnson skippering the Clinton Swift Boat against Barak Obama. As a white guy, I’m disgusted to see this campaign turning to race baiting.

    January 13, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  19. tariq

    wow! bob , just wow ! you need to take a look at your self! bet! bet!

    January 13, 2008 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  20. Mark S Omaha, NE

    Hypocritical. Obama seems to be the only honest voice. Hillary seems vindictive and bitter, I guess that seems to be the current standard.

    January 13, 2008 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  21. Dan B

    Clinton and her crew had better be careful. If all they have on Obama is some past drug use, which he has clearly confessed to in his book, they had better not throw too many stones. The list of offenses, tricks, lies, innuendo, et. al., by and for the Clintons is long, ugly, and constantly being updated.

    Barack takes these claims head on and admits them, if true, as anyone with honor and dignity would.

    Hillary and company flat out refuse to directly discuss every legitimate question that will paint them in the light of their true colors. She talks about the things she said and did during their years in the White House. Can we see the documents? Sorry, they are all under lock and key until further notice. She wants to be treated like all other candidates. Consider me, not Bill and Chelsea. Yet, when she crashes and burns in Iowa, she cries, has Bill run interference for her, and claims she's doing this for her family, Bill and Chelsea! Let's also not forget her campaign team has admitted to planting questions for Hillary to answer and other questionable tactics.

    Any question about one might have about the Clinton years – was he treated fairly or unfairly, were allegations true, were they dirty – should be obvious by now. They play dirty, are dirty, and when they get caught or cornered, they play the victim and point fingers.

    Please people, for the sake of the future of this country, its citizens, and what's left of our standing in the world, – DO NOT LET THEM BACK INTO THE WHITE HOUSE!!

    January 13, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  22. Natalie

    My God, Hillary, how low can you go? Do you really need to "instigate" these personal attacks against Barack in order to win? I mean, seriously... *shakes head*

    If people can't see she is using another African American to undermine Barack's integrity then people are seriously deluded as to Hillary's leadership of his country.

    January 13, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  23. William Gainesville, FL

    Sorry, Senator Clinton, YOU are the one who is not ready to be president. why, you might ask? BECAUSE YOU ACT LIKE A KINDERGARTENER! So childish and manipulative. Makes me sick to my stomach.

    January 13, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  24. Helen, NY

    Wake up America. This is the result when media gives too much publicity for both Hillary & Obama. They like to fool american people with their big mouth. Empty vessel makes too much noise. This is the state of democratic party today. It has changed so much and now we have people like Howard Dean manging it.

    January 13, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  25. CarlosX

    I believe that Marion Barry would be a great running mate for Obama.

    January 13, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42