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. Katzenelson

    A Bob Johnson talking to Hillary is a lot better than an Al Sharton talking to Bill.

    January 14, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  2. James, Minneapolis, MN

    Bob Johnson is a smut peddler anyway and I really don't think that the media is aware of how little personal influence Bob Johnsons words have on the African American community.

    All you have to do is look at the programming of BET to realize that Bob Johnson taking a stance on morality and some of the major issues that affect black people is an oxymoron.

    He was surprisingly silent when the Don Imus scandal was all over the airwaves.

    January 14, 2008 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  3. Carolyn

    The comments made by Johnson and seems to be appreciated my Clinton is nothing more than the slave mentality of some black Americans. All one has to do is jump in and divide the black community, split them up and that will be just enough to march Clinton into victory. When are we going to learn? It's sad.

    The Democratic Party loves us as long as we don't run for president. Sad!

    January 14, 2008 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  4. Cheryl

    I guess when your not smart enough to keep your mouth shut in a book about your youth, and then you run for office, this makes people question your authenticity. American has woken up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GO HILLARY.

    January 14, 2008 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  5. Cancel Subscription

    Johnson, along will Hillary and Bill must really think Blacks are stupid. We heard the remarks and more importantly, the way they were voiced. Delivery of a message makes a difference. By the way, cancel all of my subscriptions to Johnson Publishing.

    January 14, 2008 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  6. dee

    Dear World,

    We are establishing our morale authority in the world by bringing you Hillary Clinton.
    Yes this she was married to Bill Clinton who was impreached but remember that was overturned.
    Yes Bill Clinton did bring disgrace to the White House by having oral sex in the Oval office with another woman but in all fairness to Hillary she wouldn't do that.

    But enough about her husband he is not running Hillary is. She has 32 years of experienced entrenched in Washington Politics.

    That whole Universal Health Care fiacso that lead to a republican majority is behind her.

    She has learned from her mistakes, forget the past, she is "Ready".

    January 14, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  7. ClintonSupporter

    I loved the Clintons and for the last 7 years of Bush, I have fondly looked back at the Clinton era, dreaming that it would once come back.

    To the Hillary Camp: Please don't take away our fond memories of the Clinton era by stooping so low. Please don't ruin the Clinton legacy. Bill can do a lot for this country and the world. Let him continue to be revered in the same light at the elder Bush.

    Please take a hard stance with Johnson as you did with Shaheen – you will be rewarded in the long run.

    January 14, 2008 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  8. Mr. Bromont

    It is a shame that Hillary Clinton knows she made a comment that diminish the hard work, contribution and sacrifice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to our history and modern society. Barack Obama is showing great leadership qualities. We in America do not care to have the past return. The Clintons are the past, Barack Obama is the future. He is a fine example of how America is judging him for "the content of his character" this is part of the quote of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to let America know that he is the next best choice for the office of President of the United States of America. All of America should go out and vote for Barack Obama because he has shown that he is for all of America.

    January 14, 2008 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  9. PA Guy

    Come on, Racism, I really thought it was getting better out there.
    Where are Clyburn, Sharpton, and Donna Brazile? The airwaves are filled with racism. They started this mess and now they sit back, smirk, and watch controversy grow. Think of the millions of dollar$ they will make in book endorsements? They are not doing anything to help the Afro-American. They just added another 50 years of discrimination. They need to apologize to Americans that it was they who took the word out of context.

    January 14, 2008 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  10. pam s.c.

    this country needs change. obama to me inspires hope he is promoting change i am a 55 y/o grandmother and i am white . i am willing to give obama a chance if he fails as a president well he will lose my support. good luck obama .

    January 14, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  11. Truth Hurts

    What is so bad about him bringing up Obama's drug past? Its not a lie! Did all you Obama supporters read his book? Whats the problem? So we cant talk about someone's drug past? It was ok to do it about Bill and George, but not Obama? Why? Im so confused?

    January 14, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  12. John

    Can anyone hear the sound of BACKFIRES, can the Clinton's hear that sound or are they deaf to the voice of the people.

    January 14, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  13. Omar Norfolk VA

    If nominated. Hillary has absolutely NO CHANCE of being elected. FACT! Her and Bill carry more luggage than ANY of the candidates in the race besides Guiliani. FACT!

    Why do you think Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich are saying positive things about her in the press? They know that she will LOSE in the general election! THE GOP and Independents would become very energized to not ever see another Clinton in office ever again.

    January 14, 2008 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  14. Keith

    Atleast he came out and said it, not some sorry line like " I didn't inhale. "

    January 14, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  15. carol

    Obama pretends he isn't playing the race card. Everyone knows he is.

    Stay with the issues.

    Hillary is the only one with a greivance that they continue to ask her about Bill's infidelity.

    We are sick of this bull.

    January 14, 2008 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  16. roger, conway sc

    I can not imagine any reasonable person getting upset over what Hillary or Bill said, if they do they are very sensative or are looking for something to get upset over. As a white man I am ready for a black president but it does not seem that the black leadership are ready for a black president. After all this Hoopla over nothing I feel very strongly that if Obama is elected president everytime something is said we are going to hear from Donna Brazzelle, Jessie Jackson, Roland Martin, Al Sharpton & Jim Clyburn on how offended they are and demanding a apology. I really do not want to hear this for the next four years....so all you Obama supporters had better think twice before you vote for him....

    January 14, 2008 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  17. Sherri

    Bob Johnson is the same black man who sold out BET to Viacom. Now BET is a 24hr minstrel show that degrades women and promotes sex and drugs (the ones he yah know Obama did ) to the youth.

    January 14, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  18. Renee

    Friends-Make no mistake about it!
    Bob Johnson is much more dangerous to our nation than his millionaire-status and clinton ties belies.

    Consider then following:
    He is the founder of BET ( Black Entertainment Television). His millions was built broadcasting (gangsta rap) violence, mysogyny and sex into the households and minds of our children and our nation. It is NOT coincidental that he SOLD BET as this country approached the end of the Clinton presidency. He knew that he would no longer be able to profit as easily under a Republican congress and presidency. He is campaigning against Obama because he can not continue his shady business alliances with Barack Obama as president.


    Born: 8 April 1946
    Birthplace: Hickory, Mississippi
    Best Known As: Founder of Black Entertainment Television
    Robert L. Johnson is the founder, chairman and CEO of Black Entertainment Television (BET). He is also the majority owner of the the Charlotte Bobcats of the National Basketball Association. Johnson grew up in Illinois and earned a graduate degree in international affairs from Princeton University. In the early 1970s Johnson found himself in Washington, D.C. during the early expansion of cable television. After a few years as a lobbyist for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Johnson borrowed money to start his own cable brand, BET. Launched in 1980, it was profitable within five years. In the early '90s BET became the first African-American-controlled company to be traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1998 Johnson bought it back and then sold it to Viacom, pocketing a reported $1.5 billion himself and retaining his position as chairman and CEO. Since then Johnson has continued to expand and diversify the BET brand, and in 2003 he became the owner of a new National Basketball Association franchise, the Charlotte Bobcats.

    As an African American woman, i have seen his carnage first-hand!

    January 14, 2008 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  19. Natasha

    How dare Johnson try to defame Obama?
    Bill Clinton has donr drugs as well as had sex in the white house

    I am sick of a weak canidate who just founf her voice a few weeks ago.

    I will no longer give JOhnson Publishing any of my money..

    I will be voting republican after this election.

    reall are tired of the Clintons

    January 14, 2008 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  20. Karl

    This is the dirt that Hillary said she would not use. Oh wait, she didn't use it..

    January 14, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  21. Carmen

    Give Hillary a break. She is not stooping any lower than the other candidates. She didn't even make the remarks; it is unfair to suggest that she should have to account for every remark made be every one of her supporters. I really hate to say it, but I don't think that she would be considered as polarizing if she were a man. She is held to a higher scrutiny because she is a woman. I had really hoped that our nation was above this type of discrimination, but after watching the media's constant criticism of her, I'm not so sure. She is smart, well-informed, and has devoted her life to public service. She deserves better than the treatment she is given by the media.

    January 14, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  22. Mike in Kentucky

    Look, I am so tired of all the apologists for Mr. Obama's drug transgressions and how they don't mean anything today. If you really think this you are an idiot.

    Many people on various posts I have read, seem to think that because they have used illegal drugs and grew up to be reasonably functioning adults, this somehow diminishes the question about the judgement of the person who would assume the responsibility for the nuclear arsenal of the United States.

    If you are an admitted user of illegal drugs, rightly or wrongly, you are automatically disqualified from a host of jobs. This is a fact.

    Hell, I smoked pot when I was in college, but I don't spread that knowledge around, and I am not running for President.

    I know nothing or have heard nothing about Senator Clinton's history in this regard.

    If you think the Republican smear machine is going to ignore this part of Mr. Obama's life then you will get what you deserve, a new Republican in the White House.

    To admit to past criminal behavior is not to erase it. Just ask any criminal prosecutor in the United States. Don't try to misconstrue my remarks here, these facts, presented my Mr. Obama himself, deserve careful evaluation by the electorate before we chose him to represent the Democratic Pary.

    January 14, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  23. SAD88

    I am an independent and would vote democrat this here but i am really saddened and disgusted that now as democrats this is what you guys stand for. If you guys can divide each other and drag each other through the mud like this imagine what we will happen when the republicans get hold of you. Democrats will have no chance

    January 14, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  24. Dave C - NJ

    The fact that Obama smoked weed and tried coke means one thing: He's a normal person in the eyes of the MAJORITY of Americans. You bible-thumpers and holier-than-thou indignant jerks were not going to vote for him anyway, so cry all you want.

    Here's to a normal person running, not a phoney cookie cutter candidate.

    January 14, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  25. Janice Dearth

    As usual the media is focusing on 2 candidates only . Giving Hillary and Obama all of the coverage over racial issues. Not that the racial issue isn't important, but blacks are only 20% of the American population. Americans voters have other issues which affect EVERYONE such as jobs, immigration, gas prices, the war in Iraq and of course the budget. The media needs to start airing all the candidates positions on ALL the issues. Get with the PROGRAM.

    January 14, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
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