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. International student

    Look we all know the clintons play dirty. At the end of the day, politics is almost never clean. weither democrats like it or not, this year's nomination will go to a minority. A Black male or a White Woman. However, we hope that the Clinton camp would just leave this race connotations out of it for once. Hilary pulled the Gender Card during the NH debate; " You want change? I am a woman runniing for president..." she cried a little and won over the female votes in NH. This time, she seems to be trying to bait Obama into joining this race saga. The Clintons are good polititians and know that if Obama reacts to the racial comments, he would not get the white votes in other states. South Carolina....please Vote your conscience. Dont vote based on Gender or racial issues for the battle has bearly began. To Obama, you need to distance yourself as far as possible from rethoric in general. improve your economic plan because you might get beat again in the next debate when it comes to the issues. As an african, I know Obama is doing something right if African- Americans dont believe him. We all need a wake up call if we keep looking for small money and not big changes.

    January 14, 2008 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  2. Dutchboy52

    Oh yeah, I remember Bill Clinton smoked but he didn't inhale, now that's a fairy tale.

    January 14, 2008 02:50 am at 2:50 am |
  3. jason

    haha, politics

    January 14, 2008 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  4. joe

    As a black liberal, I'm amazed at what I'm seeing from the DEMOCRATIC party. These tactics that the Clinton's are using are shameful and depressing. It might be possible that they've been doing this since the beginning and I've never noticed, but I'm shocked. Distorting Obama's record, blatant lies, race-baiting, if I didn't know any better, I'd assume Karl Rove to be the Clinton campaign manager. I find it very interesting that the Clintons are willing to destroy the democratic party simply so that Hillary could be president. I don't think it will work. If she wins the the nomination, she will lose the general. After watching these tactics, my vote will be going to John McCain. As a black person, I would never vote for her simple because of the race-baiting. I think there will be a backlash from blacks around the country. But we'll see what happens.

    January 14, 2008 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  5. Stevo

    To say all Obama does is talk is ridiculous... how much time does it take to look at a website that discusses in detail his plans for improving america. (for that matter check out all the other candidates too, that's what I'm doing)

    And just to quote another commentor, cause I completely agree with this statement:

    "I've never known anybody to refer to street-level organizing and community aid as "doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing…"

    Perhaps we should be more concerned that Clinton's supporters can't actually refer to community service but only allude to it. What a ridiculous cop-out.

    The suggestion that he was referring to anything other than Obama's drug use is preposterous. "

    January 14, 2008 03:11 am at 3:11 am |
  6. Kevin Scott

    I am a diehard Democrat thanks to the past two decades of the GOP being held hostage to right wing zealots. I was excited about the caliber of the Democrat candidates & I have supported of the Clintons. However I have been more than turned off by Hillary's campaign & I am starting to see her in a new light & starting to see why my friends who are Independents have said that there is no way in hell that they will vote for her. I am sick of divisive politics and polarization. If she can't rise above her negative garbage, set a more positive tone to her campaign – not to mention the fact that she did not immediately condemn that disgusting comment from Bob Johnson how will she be able to work with the opposing party in regard to addressing our many problems? That is the kind of leadership – or lack thereof the past seven years. As for Bob Johnson he is in NO position to be critical of anyone period. He has absolutely no standards whatsoever and is an insult to the many decent, hard working African-Amercans that are trying to make a good life for themselves and their children and future grandchildren. Hillary should be ashamed that she had to pander to someone of his low class caliber. Barack had more class even when making the mistakes as a youth that Mr. Johnson has now as old man. Hillary wise up, buck up, forget the surly crap & give us a reason to vote for you. If you don't clean up your act & you win the nomination. I won't vote GOP but for the first time I simply won't vote & believe me I am not alone.

    January 14, 2008 03:25 am at 3:25 am |
  7. Justin, San Antonio, TX

    Obama is cleary the stronger canditate and Hillary knows this and is using desperation tactics to try and regain control of her lost popularity in the polls.

    January 14, 2008 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  8. tom

    1st of all bob johnson you got your money glorifying drugs sex and all that so please give me a break brother.
    can anyone tell me what hillary has done those saying she is the most qualified, please break it down fo me it seams am missing somting.
    that quote `i wouldnt trust the pilots wife to fly the plane` had me rolling.makes sense..
    obama `08.

    January 14, 2008 03:50 am at 3:50 am |
  9. sajidnadine

    "Personally I am horrified to say the least, the thought that blacks are supporting Hillary Clinton just because Obama is not black enough or "I rather vote for a winning candidate". Lets be smart and not vote for Hillary just because she says she supports blacks. She may support the blacks personally but her donors and her buddies may not. If Hillary wins, Hispanics will be getting more attention than us. Don't believe me, check the polls in Nevada. Hispanics are voting for Hillary because she has major plans for them and their association. For blacks, it is just all talk. Let's be smart and think for minute before casting our votes."


    January 14, 2008 03:57 am at 3:57 am |
  10. JK

    It is a sad state of affairs when people want to vote for someone on the platform of "Vote for Change" without understanding what the plans for "Change" are. GW made change........ a major WAR. At least Mr. Clinton did not treat us to this kind of "Change".

    January 14, 2008 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  11. yours trully

    honesty is the best policy....what more do the american ppl want?` i did not have sex with that woman` honesty????? OBAMA 4 PRESIDENT!!!!!

    January 14, 2008 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  12. Kenyotta

    Gosh...is she really trotting out old and tired Bob Johnson? The people that would listen to him DON'T VOTE. Trust me when I say that is the truth. I've passed them on my way to the polls hanging out. I'm so sick and tired of this woman standing by playing dumb when someone makes a negative comment about Obama. She is so childish and so overrated. She is scared that she may lose and is trying to do everything she can to cast a dark cloud on Obama. Good grief. What's next? Another tearful performance. Maybe she can sustain her tears for longer than 2 seconds the next time. Can someone PLEASE show her to the door?

    January 14, 2008 04:22 am at 4:22 am |
  13. Duane, Independent

    Duane Independent

    Hillary wants to make it black and white, man vs. women grudge match for the Democratic nomination. Obama could not have possibly won Iowa if he had run his campaign on the race card, so far he is running a campaign based on what he believes he can do for the country, not what the voters should do for him because he’s black or a man.

    Bob Johnson is a hypocrite, the videos played on BET, and the lyrics that young boys and girls listen to and memorize have done more damage for the black community than Obama’s past experimentation with drugs has ever done.

    I wonder if Hillary could get .50 Cent to lash out against Obama, would she think that would get her a few more black votes?

    A classy move from Hillary would have been to advise Bob Johnson not too say anything negative about Obama…or to make a personal public statement denouncing anything negative. Again, she shows her true colours, playing dirty politics, and another example of divisive politics.

    Seriously, has Hillary ever watched BET? I will vote for Mc Cain if she is the best the Democrats can do.

    January 14, 2008 04:33 am at 4:33 am |
  14. Gilbert

    Is anything more divisive than bringing in gender and race?
    Is anything more divisive than stating that "she" was not for a preemptive vote but has voted for it?

    How come she "repeated" it on Iran?

    On "Meet the Press" she said that the WH overpassed the power and went into war without the final agreement. OK. But then why not talking about what she intend to do, if elected President: Is she going to ask the DOJ to deal with the matter?

    January 14, 2008 04:38 am at 4:38 am |
  15. fredo

    I hear people say that Obama is African-American. I find that interesting, because he is simply not one. The fact is, he is both white and black, and for the record- his father is black and mother white. Maybe something like mixed, biracial or black-white would make sense to a kid who doesn't understand why Obama should be called African-American. If he is African-American then what would a white or black American be called? This country needs to rethink some of these labels,they are definitely outdated!!

    January 14, 2008 04:43 am at 4:43 am |
  16. Mesfin Tewolde

    Hello dear broadcasters of CNN

    I am following the presidential campaign trail almost all the times. Especially the democratic race is more interesting than the republican one as Obama is the formidable contender in the race. However, I am just wondering that why Se. Clinton is mentioning the name of Barrack Obama in her campaign too much? It may be better to give more attention to outsmart him by disclosing her accomplishments and skills in a way people understand her than trying to lessen his reputation. I am grateful to Mr Obama that he has never given any attention to her negative campaign or to her distorted message, rather he tries to keep her in the race by complimenting and keeping her moral high.

    Listen to his speech in New Hampshire, he congratulated Se. Clinton and said, “She has done a great job!” but she never congratulated him in his winning race, Iowa. I admire him for his wisdom that he is able to control his emotion and even able to compliment his opponent with his full heart. He is emotionally mature enough to be a president.

    Most of the times, Se Clinton copy Se Obama’s campaign mantra words and use it her campaign. That is embarrassing. This simply indicates that Barack Obama is born to lead and Clinton is born to follow. He talks about change, hope and impress many of us. She repeats it in the next morning and makes it boring.

    Many times, she feels that she win the mind and the heart of the people by worth mentioning experience 1000 times. However, the experience she is talking is not visible in her speech. Listen to Obama when he speaks. You can sense his wisdom in his words. His speech exceeds the imagination of his audience and touch the heart of the people. Her speech sounds as ordinary but his speech sounds as extra ordinary. One can imagine that Obama would be a great leader not only for America but also for the rest of the world, if he can get the chance or the vote of the American people.

    It will be displeasing, if Clinton uses again the new Obama mantra word “Yes we can!” This would reveal that she is born to follow not to lead.

    Fribourg, Switzerland

    January 14, 2008 04:55 am at 4:55 am |
  17. Anonymous

    So is this the only way to win to bring up a part of someone's history. Well, let's talk about her supposed extra marital affair. Do we want that type of person to run our country or is that a requirement these days. Just run on what you think you can do for this country. I like both Hillary Clinton and Obama Barack. But I truly wish to see a campaign that is run strictly on their own merits and someone elses down falls. Because NO ONE IS PERFECT!!!

    January 14, 2008 04:59 am at 4:59 am |
  18. Maeve

    Good grief. Way to take things out of context here, folks! Aren't there some special social services available in your area that would help you deal with your oh-so-delicate sensitivities that have you hearing insults that are not being made?

    The only ones who are jumping up and down and claiming Johnson (and by some strange extension, Clinton) brought up Obama's drug use are people from the Obama camp and Obama supporters.

    Hysteria-addicted Obama drones, know thyselves!

    January 14, 2008 04:59 am at 4:59 am |
  19. Goody Eugene, OR

    I see just how eager some of you Obama supporters are to do a hatchet job on the Clintons. Two people who have spent a great deal of time as public servants working to help the African American people. How quickly you forget! My advice to them would be, "don't worry about your sorry behinds anymore."

    It would be poetic justice if a Republican gets voted in because the Democrat you wanted didn't win the nomination. Then we'll see how much help you get!!

    I support Hillary 100%. She is intelligent, articulate, well-organized, a hard worker, a christian, a good mother, of strong character, the First Lady at the White House for eight years and for twelve years in Arkansas. Last but not least, Hillary is a highly respected Senator whose most important assets are her ability to compromise and work across party lines to get things accomplished.

    Hillary All The Way To The White House!

    January 14, 2008 05:00 am at 5:00 am |
  20. Jack Johnson

    Get your rain coats, this is gonna get messy. We are about to witness the first of many pi$$ing contests.

    January 14, 2008 05:02 am at 5:02 am |
  21. bobby

    I'm born and raised as a Democrat, but if Hillary wins the nomination, I'll probably vote for a third party in protest over this under-handed smear campaign. I expect both candidates to have a lively debate on the issues, but Clinton's "fairy tale" remark is beyond the pale. Obama has always been clearly against the war, he spoke out at a time when it was a very unpopular position to have at great political risk. He had the courage to stand up to the ridiculous rush to war and he was RIGHT.

    Now that was pretty low, but to have a surrogate bring up things Obama probably did when he was in his teens is just ridiculous and right up there with Rove's demolition job on McCain in SC. God knows what Bill and Hillary did in college, it was the sixties for chrissakes they probably did some drugs that they aren't proud of now just like about everyone.

    To me this whole thing smells of desparation on the part of the Clintons. They want back in the White House and they don't care if they have to resort to the politics of personal destruction to get there.

    January 14, 2008 05:08 am at 5:08 am |
  22. Ana, Alaska

    The divisive Mr. BET Bob Johnson has the Willie Lynch syndrome. I am canceling my subscriptions ASAP. Some argue that the Willie Lynch letter was a made up story but the actions of most Blacks in this country makes me think otherwise. What a shame! The Clintons have disapointed me BIG TIME; and I thought that Karl Rove was the master of dirty tricks. What makes it worse is that they celebrate their ill and childish attacks at Obama in the house of God.

    Mr. BET, why are you so against your own brother? How much are you getting paid for that cheap favor? Are you a "yes master"? Why are you contributing to escalate the situation with your provoking immature jokes? The Clinton's past before and during the white house, their lies and other scandals that surrounded that first family doesn't tell you that you are pointing at the wrong person? How about yourself? I thought that AGE and 'experience' were important tools for leaders. I have NO respect for people like you.

    If I recall, the first person to attack was Mr. "I did not inhale or did not have sex with that woman" Bill Clinton. It is perfectly okay for the Obama canpaign to react; but as far as I know, they did not want to play on those old and non progressive (like you) tactics. Why when a Black person is raising up, another insecure and jealous borther runs to destroy him/her? Don't be a crab Mr. Johnson!

    Look, I have never been this upset. As a Black/Latina, I want to confirm my vote for my intelligent brother Barack Obama who can think on his feet, who will continue to fight a clean race. His name means "blessed" child of God. Remember, when you hurt your brother, you hurt yourself and others that look like you.

    There is some truth to the Willie Lynch letter:
    "... I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves, and I take these differences and make them bigger. I use fear, distrust, and envy for control purposes. These methods have worked on my modest plantation in the West Indies, and it will work throughout the South.

    Take this simple little test of differences and think about them. On the top of my list is "Age", but it is there because it only starts with an "A"; the second is "Color" or shade; there is intelligence, size, sex, size of plantations, attitude of owners, whether the slaves live in the valley, on a hill, East, West, North, South, have fine or coarse hair, or is tall or short.

    Now that you have a list of differences, I shall give you an outline of action–but before that, I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust, and envy is stronger than adulation, respect, or admiration.

    The Black Slave, after receiving this indoctrination, shall carry on and will become self refueling and self generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands."

    Mr. Johnson, you should reconsider.
    May God Bless you!

    January 14, 2008 05:15 am at 5:15 am |
  23. RealityCheck

    First of all it was HILLARY AND BILL CLINTON THAT BROUGHT IN THE RACE CARD NOT OBAMA !!! SHE AND HER SLICK WILLY HUSBAND DO WHAT THEY ALWAYS DO, PLAY DIRTY AND THEN PLAY THE VICTIM CARD. Anybody stupid enough to put HC into office will get what they deserve. Obama has handled this situation with class, and not played the race card, he hasn't gotten angry and the MAINSTREAM MEDIA KNOWS THE MAJORITY OF YOU DO NOT KNOW YOUR FACTS. THE SO CALLED OWNER OF BET IS NOT THE OWNER OF BET ANYMORE, AND WHEN HE OWNED IT, ALL IT WAS GOOD FOR IS PRODUCING TRASH FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS ANYWAY. SO WHO CARES WHAT HE HAS TO SAY? OR WHO HE IS SUPPORTING? BET brought us gansta rap, violence, and disgusting images of ignorance in the African American community instead of positve images or things that could inspire ANY community. Hmmmm… and HE is backing the CLINTIONS!!! Enough said.

    January 14, 2008 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
  24. southernboy

    I am very upset and disturbed at the commits that hillary clinton made about civil rights,And Dr.martin L, King. jr . To undermind the work of this man and the civil rights movement. Is such a tragedy in it-self. But, for Bob Johnson to have made the false accusation about Mr.O'bama was the last straw for me. I live in the charlotte,NC. area and I will never go to a Bob cats game ever again nor will I vote for hillary Clinton. Oh, P.S., Mr. Johnson , I won't be getting any plane rides from u either.

    January 14, 2008 05:40 am at 5:40 am |
  25. Andrew K

    Micah from Canon City, CO - you said it well!!

    Hillary will NOT be getting my vote, period.

    January 14, 2008 05:43 am at 5:43 am |
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