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. Cathy

    I am so sick of Hillary's negative campaigning. She tries to keep her hands clean by getting others to voice these ideas, but she has tarnished her entire campaign and I will not vote for her because of this.

    January 13, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  2. Rey-Rey

    Wait a minute!
    A guy who is somehow connected with BET chastising a man for being upfront about his drug use in the past?
    Who the hell are you to talk! Your crap station constantly toasts the gangstah-schtick...
    You made/make your bling money off that...
    Jive-turkey fool...

    January 13, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  3. Rob

    The egomaniac Bob Johnson who has named a basketball team after his gigantic ego has little place to make such comments. He is a business man that is looking for favors if and when Clinton is elected. He is willing to throw his race and the people that made him very rich under the bus to get some credit for his apple-polishing remarks. This is dirty politics sanctioned and promoted by Clintons. That is why Obama is such a breath of fresh air and has my full support

    January 13, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  4. Mary

    Clinton is looking more and more like Bush with her dirty tricks. I will not be able to vote for her in 2008.

    January 13, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  5. TH

    why we must to rethink? the problem is in front of our eyes. we need a president , not a actor that we only know about his part in the movie, not in the real life. What we need is president do the real thing, not thing in movie.

    January 13, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  6. Robin

    It takes Hillary to turn Black against Black. Even though Bob Johnson looks Black he is White. It's what Chief Dan George called "The Black Whiteman".
    "I voted for Bill, I won't vote for "Hill".

    January 13, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  7. Mike, Conway, AR

    I'm with you Adam. I've voted in every major election my entire voting life, but if Hillary is our nominee, I'm not voting.

    January 13, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  8. Alice Newman Center Harbor NH

    How many years has Bill Clinton taken heat for "I didn't inhale" while George Bush's alcoholic record was sealed ... just like his military records.

    How many postings were there about Hillary's "tears" – although she just choked up when someone said something kind rather than hateful but Bush is allowed to cry at a memorial in Israel this week with no comment.

    Knowing the GOP and their nasty tricks and lies (just ask John McCain) everyone knows they will bring this issue up – Obama himself, just brought it up first.

    With the vicious e-mail lies about Obama's name, church and upbringing clouding our in- boxes, when Mitt himself called Obama "Osama" on numerous occasions, not to mention the radical talk shows, why is Hillary chastised and the GOP getting a free ride on being nasty?

    If Obama can't take the heat from a Democratic challenger on an issue he himself has admitted to, he's in for a very, very long year. The Swiftboaters for Lies are just starting to board their boats and load their weapons.

    January 13, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  9. jp/michigan

    Mr. Obama has giving the republican party ammunition. They will be checking sideways and backwards for any thing in his or this families past to jump on. I know honesty is the best policy so what ever there is fess up. GOP, as well as democrats have been on the Clintons for years.

    January 13, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  10. suzanne

    She buys her endorsements, and is currently trying to surpress democratic voters in Nevada. She is shameless, a phony and a fraud. Those who support her are as disreputable as she and her husband.

    January 13, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  11. Bill, NY

    Bob Johnson Should be Ashamed of him self, And BET promotes young black Americans to be stand up citizens (hypocrite). Give me a break Bob, and Stop being a mouth piece for the Clinton campaign!

    January 13, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  12. Lee

    As an African American I am quite insulted at the content BET has and continues to put on the air. Maybe Bob should clean up his own back yard first.

    January 13, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  13. CelinaB

    Hello BJ
    We prefer Obama's judgment to lead, as opposed to the Clintons even after whatever he was doing in the neighborhood. Yes, he still opposed the war, based on visionary analysis. Clinton never read the intelligence report, voted to take the country to war, and never had the guts to face the truth and apologize.

    As for Bill Clinton, he never inhaled. We also remember him during the Rwanda massacre, he sat, and watched and worried about MLowisky.

    January 13, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  14. *Light*

    this remark made by bob johnson is so incredibly foolish and ignorant. if you want to endorse hillary then fine. it's a free country. do what you'd like. but to make sly remarks and speak in "code" against senator obama by saying, "Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing but he said it in his book..." is disgraceful, cowardly and serves no true purpose in this campaign.

    man up mr. johnson! don't try to hide behind interpretations of what you meant or didn't mean to say. if you are going to be so bold and open your mouth and speak out against someone, then at least have the courage to stand up like a man and shoot it straight while fully speaking your mind. man up! stop hiding behind partial statements.

    now i am sure he will turn this all around and say that he was not referring to obama's past history with drugs. i am sure mr. johnson will say we are all taking his words out of context. now the clintons will have to get out to the media AGAIN that these words and statements that came from their campaign were misunderstood. somehow this seems to be a common theme now in her campaign.

    i find the actions of mr. johnson low and disrespectful. i support obama and have no qualms with mr. johnson or anyone wanting to endorse and stand behind any other candidate. but i would implore mr. johnson to back his candidate based on her merits and stop taking childish and cheap shots at senator barack. negative campaigning is something that the american public absolutely unequivocally does not like.

    OBAMA '08

    January 13, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  15. R

    have you ever watch BET? they play ganster rap video's.. that channel is nothing but a disservice to black america and more importantly black women to begin with.

    January 13, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  16. Bimmer

    I do not think the media is their due diligence in raising questions about Obama's flip-flops, use of something and confession and his church. Now that he is a fornt runner he should be probed as was others before it is too late.

    January 13, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  17. rkwallace

    There is always a difference in a person that admits his youthful indisgressions verses those who continue to hide theirs.

    I'm more concerned with the person who learned from their mistakes.

    January 13, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  18. Mike, Clio, Michigan

    This is beginning to get disgusting....we've had a somewhat positive campaign for a while, at least compared to past years, but now it's taking another turn for the worse.

    The fact that Obama is admitting his past history so candidly is something to be commended, not criticized.

    Oh well.

    January 13, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |

    I always thought that he who has not sin, let them cast the first stone. As much as I like Hillary, I know she doesn't have a halo over her head, only God does.

    January 13, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  20. Concerned Citizen, IN

    "Clinton's campaign says Johnson was not referring to Obama's past drug use, but rather his career as an organizer and state legislator."

    Except in the context that he used it, he was clearly implying negativity because his work as a community organizer would not be someting you would point out in the same tone. He is attempting a clear contrast between Clinton's work for the African American community "while Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say".

    Another attempt to smear Obama by a Clinton supporter. Now I will say that it may not have been sanctioned by Hillary, it may have, but either way, he was referring to Barack's admitted drug use.

    Its too bad the head of the national drug prevention program said that Obama has done the right thing to answer honestly. Something I very much doubt Hillary and her husband can say.

    January 13, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  21. Lance

    Im african american, educated, and very very perceptive. So with that said, just because the PRESS says that African Americans overwhelmingly support the Clintons. That doesnt necessarily make it true. Of course there are some African Americans that seem to believe they can get some type of gain (political, privately, or otherwise) from the Clintons.
    I truly believe that weve had enough of the Clintons. Barak Obama may or may not win the white house but Id rather vote for Obama/Edwards than a clinton any day and in any way.
    To think Hillary would make such insults about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and how he wouldnt have made progress without President Johnson. Thats going way to far with how bad she wants to win the White House. And its also insulting the former President Bill Clinton would call the Obama race for the White House a fairy tale. Its way too much..............................................I could care less how many African-Americans would rather have the wool over thier eyes. I just cant support the Clintons any longer. I feel they are using the African American vote for thier own political agenda, and the best way to get vote is by visiting African-American churches, and appearing to be compassionate.

    January 13, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  22. A Change We Can Believe In

    Simply because leading members of the black community took offense to Clinton's remarks, other leading members feel they need to fight back. He openly admits to making a huge mistake and even had the guts to publish it.

    He wears his heart on his sleeve and there's no surprises. What was the last time you could say that about ANY POLITICIAN, let alone the next president of our great nation.

    She said controversial things in hopes to deter minority voters from voting for Obama. It backfired... live with it. Don't encourage or 'not discourage' others from taking low blows because you or your husband made a poor campaign choice.

    Yes We Can.

    January 13, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  23. John Boots

    Who is Johnson to point out and put down Obama's past drug use? First off, I am impressed with Obama's honesty and candidness about the subject. The american dream is that anyone can do or become anything. If a black man heading in the wrong direction, en route to becoming a 'junkie' or 'pothead' can turn his life around and be as successful as Obama, then all the power to him. And we as Americans should be proud of him as a symbol of this dream.

    Secondly, Johnson has made millions, if not billions from BET. A quck visit to the BET website you can see videos with many beeped out comments. On the home page, in the Lifestyle section, the headline reads "See sex tapes of the rich and famous." Furthermore, we all know that many of the artists that appear on BET sing about drugs.

    I am not saying that any of the above is necessarily wrong and I applaude the freedom of speach the BET execises as a media provider, however, Johnson can not attempt to take the high road in politics when he makes money of the very thing that he condemming.

    January 13, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  24. kate

    I agree Adam ... ALL TIME LOW FOR THE CLINTONS .. They are trying to divide black people ... those they gave a few crumbs against others ..

    January 13, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  25. Hedy

    I have read and listened to what Bill and Hillary said and I found nothing racial about it.

    January 13, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
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