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. Ed

    It appears all the status quo leading blacks are siding with Hillary Clinton. People are getting upset with Barack Obama because he operates from Dr. King's entire teachings and not just one of his speaches.

    The Clinton's are not African Americans' savior; however, it appears through the blind faith placed in them by African Americans this can be seen as the gospel truth. It is a new day, and the true gosel reveals that slack hands gets you nowhere. That is why I support Barack Obama who can inspire younger people–especially black youth to not sit back and wait for politicans to appoint others to determine the future of you and your community. And, since HIlary is suported by Robert Johnson, I know my choice is the right one!

    January 14, 2008 08:07 am at 8:07 am |

    Hillary never said anything about Martin Luther King, those comments where taken out of place from the Obama camp. Obama has no foundation for any of the isssues hes campaigning on the clintons where always baking and supporting the black community even before clinton was elected(bill). The color of Obamas skin unfortunatly is not going to win him this election so i was wondering if he had any other tricks up his sleeve? Maybe he can wear black underwear and pretend he understands the black community.... the only person on Obamas ticket that really has a problem with race is Oprah she is the biggest closet racist in the entire world and to to think she is only backing Obama because the color of his skin and not the content of his character makes me sick!!.. Oprah you really need to shut your mouth when it comes to politics and stick with your full shadowy persona of actually pretending not to be a racist.

    January 14, 2008 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  3. diamond965

    In regards to Mr. Johnson's comments regarding Obama's honesty about his drug use, does he forget that it was Jitter Bug Bill Clinton that lied in a statement about marijuana use...stating that he used it but didn't inhale, now anyone knows that in order to smoke marijuana you have to inhale it. I rather stand behind an honest man, than a liar any day. Mr. Johnson is just acting out his ignorance by thinking that somone who sits in our pulpits, plays a sax, and commits adulterous acts is for us. Hillary will pretend to be what ever you want her to be to get that vote. Plus what have the Clinton's done for African Americans, we are still behind in education, employment, etc., so Mr. Johnson comment on these issues. I watch how a large number of African American's supported Bill Clinton during his infidelity while being president, so what does that say about us, we as African Americans need to upgrade our standards and stop supporting the negative and stop playing in the hands of those who see us as being naive, such as the Clintons. Obama is the best democratic candidate, because he promotes Dr. Martin Luther King's vision that it will take the unity of all the citizens of this country to combat it's problems and issues, it is not an "I" issue, it is a "We".

    January 14, 2008 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  4. Charles H. Jackson

    As a CNN-holic I am very disappointed. CNN is intentionally or unintentionally misrepresenting the current issue about Hillary Clinton’s remarks about Dr. King. Instead of showing the remarks in questions that she made to Fox news Major Garrett they are playing a video clip of her campaign speech made later that same day in which she “cleaned up “her comments. To make matters worse, they edit Barack Obamas response to the statement that He was exploiting the issue so that it appears he is responding to the initial statement. When the sound bite begins with Obama saying he is “Baffled by the Statement” it is unclear to viewers intentionally or unintentionally what statement he is responding to. He was responding to the accusations against him not the original comments made by Clinton…CNN fails every time when they roll that sound bite to give the appropriate context or at least allow the off camera reporter’s question to be aired that would clarify the matter. This misleading editing leaves a “false impression” that seems to serve the false version of events that the Clinton campaign is positing. To suggest that this is not a discernable matter of facts is disingenuous. If CNN were serious about the facts they could simply follow the time line accurately and determine what was said and by who and when. The error in their reporting of this issue all weekend and continuing this morning is unprofessional and poor biased journalism. This can be corrected by playing her original comments on Fox and giving the full context of Obama’s response. I'll be watching 🙂

    Charles H. J.

    January 14, 2008 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  5. Liam

    Does Hillary Supporter, Cuomo, have anything to say about Bob Johnson doing a Shuck and Jive performance on behalf of Hillary!.

    January 14, 2008 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  6. Natalie

    Whoopie!!! The race card finally came out. We are all betting on when. A little sooner than we expected, but finally. It is a shame that this race has been slinging dirt but now race. As an American I am insulted at the Osama camp. My vote just changed.

    January 14, 2008 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  7. boadicea59

    When I heard Barack Obama compare himself to JFK and Martin Luther King Jr., I was appalled because at that moment I knew he had just brought the race card in to this political race and he will run with it if it is ignored

    January 14, 2008 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  8. Voice of China

    Vote Hillary !

    Chinese are for the Clintons and we will achieve prosperity together. Trade will flourish for China and it is good for the American people + economy.

    Americans needs chinese trade and we support Clinton for better future.

    Vote Hillary

    January 14, 2008 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  9. Chris, Orlando, FL

    RACE CARD, RACE CARD!! How dare the Obama campaign try to divide this contest along the lines of race by getting the black vote riled up over Hillary Clinton's comments. Obama and his cronies have a marvelous way of spinning anything that comes out of the Clinton camp and making it seem like she's a racist. Hopefully the American public is smart enough to see through Obama's baseless accusations and vote for the person best fit for the job, not just the person with the right skin color.

    January 14, 2008 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  10. Linda~n~Wisconsin

    All I hear on this blog is repeats of what the media has thrown down the publics throats. The media got their butts kicked last week for the horrible job they are doing and want to get the ratings back up. Is not their anyone here who know that it is the medias responsibility to report the news and not make it??

    Just let the candidates speak and to hell with the pundits and their two-cents!!

    All Hillary was trying to do was to say that the other candidate was no Kennedy or Dr. King, AND SHE IS CORRECT.

    This election is more than race. It is about experience verses lack of experience. It is about age and gender. It is about who can lead this country politically, not divide and tear us apart.

    If the primaries are a light on what the cocky senator from IL will do as a president, I fear that the country will focus on issues that will divide this country and bring it down even further.

    January 14, 2008 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  11. Paul M

    Robert Johnson's comments yesterday regarding what Obama was "doing in the neighbourhood" were absurd and outrageous. His lame and ridiculous "clarification" today of what he meant (apparently, we are to believe that he wasn't referring to Obama's self-reported youthful drug use) shows what a pandering idiot Mr. Johnson is. Hillary has a problem with individuals in her campaign effort who "go off the reservation" with incendiary, knuckle-headed comments only to later provide equally knuckle-headed "clarifications" (witness Bill and his "fairy tale" comments). Hillary's comments on Meet The Press yesterday in response to Tim Russert's inquiry about her dimwitted comments about MLK, JFK and Lyndon B. Johnson only proves that she is not above digging her own holes and revealed her for the transparently political ladder-climbing animal that she is. Blaming Obama's campaign for bringing up the issue in the first place was an exercise in exceptional dishonesty and stupidity. For those of us who support Obama, Hillary and her flunkies continue to demonstrate why we have such extreme distaste for her candidacy.

    January 14, 2008 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  12. Indy in Va

    What is really behind these attacks on Ob ama by the Dynamic Duo?

    Is it the not talked about or reported on - recount going on in New Hampshire?
    2-4% is not a lot of votes. Could Clinton Part 3 be getting its machine ready to bring race into this campain because Obama really did win in New Hampshire? Thereby taking race out of the contest between Obama and Clinton 3.

    This (MLK and fairy tale smoke screen Bush like – bait and switch PR spin) which the Dynanic Duo put into play is keeping our eyes off of the real story.

    Now, the question becomes, will the results from New Hampshire be done before the Feb 5 primaries, and which campaign will be trying to stall the recount results. Stay tuned.

    January 14, 2008 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  13. BCNU purple state, usa

    There is a disturbing pattern here that actually has me concerned about my own intellect. I have always felt that I possess a fair enough understanding of the English language to make reasonable decisions. But, whenever a Clinton says something and I form a judgement /opinnion upon what was said, I'm incorrect! I find that I usually have to wait a few days for them to publish the "layman's" terminology.

    Does this country need someone that is constantly having to revise their remarks and try to explain things away so it looks as if they are taking the high road? I would think that not saying the stupid things in the first place would be the best policy. I also suggest that Hillary stop insulting our intelligence.

    If I were a foreign leader negotiating a serious matter of state and Hillary was across the table from me, there is no way I could make a deal with her. This is where honesty comes into play. Words ARE important and this constant having to go back and forth and redefining every single statement is counterproductive. It depends on what the meaning of IS is. Sorry, that won't play in Riyadh, Moscow, Ankara, Beijing or Helsinki.

    If you bought a product from a manufacturer and were told that the warranty says it's guaranteed but that's not really what it meant ,would you continue to buy from that company or go elsewhere?

    The bad thing is that you just can't trade a president in, or fire them for misrepresentation. You have to get all of their entrenched cronies to sign off on it and then begin the 'legal' proceedings of impeachment. How would the present occupant of the oval office do in that regard?

    Short of having the power to fire our public servants for incompetence or being unethical, we need to get it right the first time. If this country elects a known shady character, we deserve what we get.

    January 14, 2008 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  14. concerned american

    I am just shocked at some of the comments I have seen, yes MLK had a dream, but that dream was not realized until it was signed into law, so I ask you what was wrong with Mrs. Clinton's comments on this issue. His dream played a part, but lets be frank he was not the only voice behind the Civil Rights Movement although it has become his mark and his mark alone over the years in history, which I think is wrong. As, far as experience, Mrs. Clinton is the only one who has stated what she would do for this country if elected, Obama just keeps saying change, change how and when, he has not really spoken out on any of the issues or put himself out there for people to see. Who cares about past drug use that was in another generation or who slept with this person, that kind of mudslinging is not going to fix our problems. She has no control of what her supporter say or do, so why put the whole blame on her shoulders. I am for Hilary Clinton and will vote for her because I believe she is the best candidate and lets face it guys with her in the White House, we won't just have one voice with experience, we will have two and isn't that what this country needs right now.

    Keep to the issues Hilary, they are working.

    January 14, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  15. darryl

    When will we as blacks embrace history, rather than defer it,history( because this is what barack is achieving for black america in politics at this time) and stop letting our own ,whether small or great self issues try to take center stage.Bob Johnson's gestures tell what he meant without him actually saying what he really meant. Support the man for what he has become and for what he has overcome Bob, and leave the dirt where it lay.

    thank you

    January 14, 2008 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  16. South Carolinian for Obama

    Obama showed a lot of bravery in being very open about the struggles of his youth. It takes a very petty person to mock those admitted struggles. Mr. Johnson should be careful when casting stones. I bet his past is not spotless either!

    If Hillary were at all noble, she would have interjected when Johnson made those comments.

    January 14, 2008 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  17. Lia

    Why has Hillary not repudiated Andrew curomo's remarks? That remark cannot be spun. We should be discussing that!

    January 14, 2008 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  18. Nick ny, ny

    Dear CNN,
    I know most likely you will delete this comment. I am very disturbed at your conduct as new channel. I find that you are very irresponsible in term of your reporting. I have stopped watching your channel because all it does is promote Obama. Anything and everything is all about Obama. It makes me sick to my stomach to see you crumble down as a new channel. You also try to make Clintons look bad every chance you get.

    January 14, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  19. william becker

    I am frankly insulted that Mr. Johnson, a black american, could create such an outcry without even making a complete sentence. Learn how to talk, Mr. Johnson, before you mouth off about anything, much less anything as important as presidential politics. Are we "European Americans" supposed to dumb ourselves down to the pont where we can undestand your idiotic phrasing? Shall we all just give up and go ghetto?

    January 14, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  20. david

    did hillary forget that her husband used drugs also.and on top of that ,she cant keep a man happy thats why bill did what he did.shes a disgrace to america for splitting the democratic party the way she is.if she wins nomination i'll vote republican.ever since bush took office she always voted in his favor.i bet if she loses nomination she'll vote republican!

    January 14, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  21. barb

    Hillary and her henchmen are at it again! Escalating the race issue seems to be their main focus. How sad. She is almost as "unacceptable" as W.

    January 14, 2008 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  22. Chip Celina OH

    I think my BS meter has just about pegged!

    January 14, 2008 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  23. PA Guy

    This tactic was started by Al Sharpton, Jim Clyburn, and now Donna Brazile. They are the people that injected race in this election. They twisted what was said and the media only plays small sound bites. They owe Hillary Clinton the apology. This was well played by them. Kudos to them! And now people will have NO RESPECT for them.

    Edwards is up to no good already. On CNN, he claims how he and Obama are so much alike on issues. LOL....Already we can see how this next debate will go! Edwards is really scratching, not to win anything, he is already finished, but to pull Clinton down. I am looking forward to the next debate. My only hope is that the debate is a REAL DEBATE! Not like the love-fest we saw last time between Obama and Edwards. The Host should "NOT" allow this to happen AGAIN. Stick to ISSUES and FACTS. Obama and Edwards TRULY DISPLAYED THEIR WEAKNESS during their FINE DISPLAY OF “DEBATING”. If together they take Hillary out, I fear most DEMS will vote for the best of the republicans. After watching these two guy's work, the only seat available will be in the men’s room, watch your stance boy's.

    January 14, 2008 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  24. Anonymous

    The only reason people want to support Hillary is because of her connection to her husband. What if Bill dies while she's in office, ho's going to support her then? Anybody remember NAFTA, which has destroyed more than a million US jobs. Aybody know who it was that made NAFTA a reality? Bill clinton. And Hillary say's she has every intention to expand NAFTA.

    Hillary is only in this race because of her husband, not because of her track record, but because of Bill's. We don't need another 8 years of the clintons...we need fresh new thinking fo the country.

    January 14, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  25. Adam

    How sad is it that Obama has not stood up and said that these comments were meant to do no harm? If he is so FOR CHANGE, then he should be the one making CHANGE and not letting this turn into a racial moment. Its very sad for Obama that he is doing this. He's no Better the Jesse Jackson or Sharpten right now. I have lost all respect for him now and will give my vote to Hillary.

    January 14, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
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