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. Ilene

    Hillary is proving she does have experience. Dirty experience. Dirty rotton politics. I think I will have to stay home on voting day if Hillary gets the nod. I just can't vote republican and I just can't vote for Hillary. She plays too dirty.

    January 14, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  2. Lisa

    Why are so many politicians giving their political speeches at churches? I thought this was a violation of IRS tax exempt codes. This photo was taken during a church service (lady in the back has her choir gown on) and the photo description states that Clinton and Johnson both spoke during services. So how is bringing up Obama and Clinton into the service not political?

    January 14, 2008 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  3. JC, Topeka, Kansas

    Let's see a prominent, self made balck man makes a statement about Obama, and Clinton is attacked. Seems to be racism at play here, but it does not appear to me to be in the Clinton camp.

    January 14, 2008 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  4. sunnyday

    let's stop all of this disgruntlement over who said what, what we should concentrate on is who is the better democratic candidate to lead this Nation, let's go on the facts instead of she said, he said. Mr. Johnson's comments did not state that Mr. Obama did drugs, you read into it what you want to read into it and if your mind found that he stated drugs then who is the culprit, you or Mr Johnson?

    Let's get real this is about the future of our country and we all should be very concerned instead of going back and forth about who said what. What do you really know about Mr. Obama except that he is impressive as one news commentaor stated. Mr. Obama has not defined exactly what change he will make, the change might be more detrimental, than helpful to mend the Nation.Try reading up on his history in the Senate maybe that will bring you all back into reality. If he can not decide on issues today what will he do for four years. If he can't stand the heat in the campaign how will he face Congress/ Senate and foreign countries. Wake up America!

    January 14, 2008 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  5. Hulamama51

    The day the chuch where I am a member brings in a politician – will be my last day at that church. My pastor is there to preach the Gospel – not endorse candidates.

    January 14, 2008 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  6. emeka worgu

    Clinton's despiration will lead the demcrats to failure if she emerges as the candidate to stand against the republicans!

    January 14, 2008 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  7. Marilyn

    I too, am disgusted with Hillary's comments. And, I too, will vote Republican if, by chance, she were to be the Democratic candidate. Hillary (and others) have taken the Black vote for granted. Here's the deal...when you can't run on your own record, slam your oponent...and that is what she is doing. I praise Obama for his courage and belief that he can make a difference in this country. If Obama wins, everyone wins. He is appealing to "all" people...I hope everyone is listening and vote for him.

    As far as Obama's omission about drug use as a teen...how many of you would put in a book what you did...kinda like "he without sin, cast the first stone." His omission has no influence on my support for him.

    This is the right time and Obama is the right person to get this country back on track. Obama is running to represent all colors of people, all races of people, and all parties of people!

    January 14, 2008 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  8. Pat P

    It is horrible the way the news media covers all the candidates. Quotes are taken out of context, or the entire clip not played. The American media needs to learn some integrity. They are stirring up this issue due to their biased coverage. I just want everyone to vote for the candidate of their choice, based on their personal convictions and not based on the MSM coverage. Research, learn, ask questions and vote accordingly.

    January 14, 2008 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  9. Mike, St. Paul MN

    I've never voted for a Republican in my life but I will in November if Hillary gets the nomination.

    January 14, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  10. John

    The latest comments from the Clinton campaign on Barack Obama have had to be retracted/clarified/changed "I really didn't mean it that way" now seems to be the stock in trade of the Clintons. The more the Clintons carry out this strategy the greater is the Obama momentum. Their campaign ( Clintons) seems to bereft of new Idea's and is looking increasingly Old Washington and Bankrupt.

    January 14, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  11. Chinnu

    The OBAMA camp STARTED the RACE FACTOR when his supporters piled up and said that the NH people DID NOT WANT TO VOTE for a BLACK man.
    That is an insult to the people of NH and MINIMISE HILLAY"S victory.

    They want to divide the BLACK people in SC and get the VOTES,

    If he had a DRUG problem in the PAST It is RELAVENT for me to KNOWabout it.

    Stop being SOOOOOOO Sensitive

    January 14, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  12. Betty

    The Clintons should be ashamed of themselves. After all the bad things about the Clintons how can they say or imply that Obama has done things in the past.
    He has admited his short comings in his book. I am not voting for ether Clinton or Obama, but shame on the Clintons.

    January 14, 2008 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  13. Liam

    At the time that Dr. King was putting his life on the line to obtain equal rights for all, Hillary was a Goldwater Girl, and was supporting Barry Goldwater while he was campaigning against the civil rights bill that ended segregation.

    Since she clearly supported Goldwater, that means that she opposed what MLK stood for, so no wonder she still holds him in such low regard. Once a Goldwater Segregationist, Always a Goldwater Segregationist. Hillary, still a Goldwater Girl at heart. You go Goldwater Girl. You can fool some of the people all the time.

    January 14, 2008 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  14. Against Racism

    This takes the cake. Do you remember Bill Clinton said he didn't inhale?

    January 14, 2008 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  15. emeka worgu

    I think the problem of the democratic party is the "Clintons",the earlier they realise this,the better for the party!

    January 14, 2008 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  16. danielo

    The clintons are getting way too low in their campaign!! Maybe Obama raised the bar of clean politics too high for the Clintons.
    They are trying to play it but like fish out of the pond, the going gets rough unless they go back to their terrain of dirty politics.
    Tiz refreshing that Obama is responding strongly and refusing to be drawn out into the mud.

    January 14, 2008 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  17. Geovanka Levine

    Mr. Johnson does not speak for all African Americans, even the ones that use his hair products. To think that Clinton and Johnson have such a low opinion of the African American race. Does he think that everytime African Americans use "afro-sheen", that we will be programmed to pull the Billary Clinton lever? There are thousands of African American families that refuse to watch BET's degrading characterizaton of the Black family. We can now introduce religion into the mix, since, Hillary and Johnson appeared in a church. The very gospel that is sprinkled on BET Sunday mornings cannot "whitewash" Monday-Saturday's programming. I cannot see W.E.Dubois, Martin Luther King, Booker T. Washington or Soujourner Truth having a dignified cup of tea while watching BET. They would watch it long enough to ask some thought provoking questions. IS THIS WHO WE ARE? IS THIS WHAT WE MODEL TO OUR CHILDREN? DOES THIS ADDRESS WHAT IS AILING OUR CHILDREN? DOES IT PROVIDE HOPE?Johnson's hair care products are neither human or environmentally friendly. Read the labels. I doubt if George Washington Carver would have used Johnson's rhetoric labeled hair care insults. Mr. Johnson is not qualifed to "endorse" a candidate. This is a call to African Americans, UNITE FOR THE NATION!

    January 14, 2008 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  18. Democrats Rule, CA

    I'm a fairly sensible Hillary supporter, so I will not defend her for Mr. Johnson's remarks. Their camp should know better. Any slightest jabs against Mr. Obama would be monitored by his supporters and the media with a magnified glass. That veiled hint about Obama's youth was definitely negative. It was uncalled for.

    I tried to gauge readers' reactions recently. There has been a lot more comments supporting Obama than Hillary on the Internet for a long time now. Sometimes, it would seem like Hillary is a total goner. But, I don't think that's the case in reality. Many commentators and bloggers simply ignore the fact that most voters out there don't go on the Internet and post their thoughts or being interviewed by pollsters. My parents and their groups of friends are all voting for Hillary. That's a significant number that no one ever paid any attention to. Furthermore, the cable news media keep on pushing this theory that "poor and uneducated" people are voting for Hillary. Although we are neither, but that only infuriates these groups more. Let's be real. There are more poor people out there than rich people. And, who likes to be called "uneducated" anyway? I believe the media is only solidifying more votes for Hillary with all these so-called "analysis." Just look what happened to N.H.

    With that said, I'm still voting for Hillary. I know her capability and I care about her issues. I want someone who can lay out real plans, not someone who can talk. Obama is a great inspirational/motivational speaker, but he is an unknow entity to me. I'm looking for true leadership, not religeous guidance. Sorry, Mr. Obama, I like you, but it's not your time yet, maybe 8 years later.....

    P.S. I'm a loyal Democrat. In the end, I will vote for whoever becomes the nominee, no matter it's Clinton, Obama or Edwards. I hope all fellow Democrats will do the same. Let these candidate fight their own battles. We need to unite and win the WAR!

    January 14, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  19. David

    What did Mr. Johnson say that wasn't true About Obama. When Hillary was advocating for blacks, Obama was in the street getting high. THAT's THE TRUTH. Hillary has been attacked in the pass because of her support for the BLACKS. So now there's a black running for presidential and Hillary is a racists, Bill is no longer the first black president. That really saids a lot about the loyality of the black community. If Obama was a better candidate to be president I would be the frist person out there supporting him, but he's not. Hillary Clinton is the best prepaired for the job at this time.

    January 14, 2008 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  20. David

    What did Mr. Johnson say that wasn't true About Obama. When Hillary was advocating for blacks, Obama was in the street getting high. THAT's THE TRUTH. Hillary has been attacked in the pass because of her support for the BLACKS. So now there's a black running for presidential and Hillary is a racists, Bill is no longer the first black president. That really saids a lot about the loyality of the black community. If Obama was a better candidate to be president I would be the frist person out there supporting him, but he's not. Hillary Clinton is the best prepaired for the job at this time.

    January 14, 2008 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  21. Give me a Break!

    Of course Obama is playing the race card, what else does he have, certainly not the experience or knowledge that Clinton has. It seems to me that this is clearly a minority candidate using race as a way to inflame passion via intellectually dishonest means. I think it’s clear that Senator Clinton’s remarks were simply pointing out that the blood, sweat, tears, and grassroots movement of Dr. King required political allies to help effect the change. To dispute or spin that in any way is utterly dishonest.

    January 14, 2008 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  22. william walsh col ohio

    if obamma and rommney edwards huckelbee, and the rest were so interseted in changing this defunked leadership where have they been? and what have they done to oppose this inept administration? i want the one that has caused trouble, the one that has voted against bush and his dilusional thinking! where is that person? i want the one thats been a thorn in this goverments side, i dont care if you play base,sing, preach, or have 400.00 dollar haircuts, i want the person that will fight for change,
    at least hillery doesnt need a typed document in front of her to speak, she doesnt preach,she cant play guitar, she doesnt flail her arms like a puppet, and she understands buss, without buss here there is no reason to have a president! 80% of this country has to stop traveling because of gas prices, or cut back on food, or cant pay there mortgage, wheres the canidate that will bring back the steel mills? and car makers? give incentives to companys to stay in the u.s?wheres the person that will invoke the death penalty for rapist? bust up these imigrants and the organized gangs? wheres the person thats got any guts? ill tell you where! arlington cemetary, thats where,
    hillery i hope you get the vote,

    January 14, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  23. John

    Obama 08

    January 14, 2008 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  24. Katzenelson

    Only fair!

    Why should anybody try to have (even by others) his past hidden when running for such a sensitive job?!
    I would always want to know everything about a candidate before its too late, I have the right to information and the freedom to make up my own mind.

    And since Obama seems not to be interested anymore in showing it all, I'm glad others do care and tell.

    January 14, 2008 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  25. Mike, Houston, TX

    Hillary cares for the black cause deeply, at least until the election. Thereafter, she can continue to ignore it.

    January 14, 2008 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
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