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. dee

    Right on Caroyln.......Your words are so true. Divide and Conquer
    OBAMA '08

    January 14, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  2. Karl, Charleston, SC

    I didn't inhale means he ate pot brownies.

    January 14, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  3. Will, Manchester, NH

    Bob Johnson ?? what a cracko.. He made his money by showing off the booty...

    Too bad he is high on moral authority to talk about drugs, women. How can clinton even share the stage with him???

    January 14, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  4. Tanaka


    You are sooooooooooooo transparent, it's not even funny.
    Hello Mrs. Clinton, how are you doing today, how is Mr. Clinton?
    Hope you have a great day.


    January 14, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  5. Mia, Stafford, VA

    If you are using only CNN and the main stream media for all of your information, that would explain some of these comments. I would suggest CSPAN or just listen to what the candidates say, go to their websites read their plans, and then make a judgement.

    The Obama Campaign had not made ANY COMMENTS regarding Mrs.Clinton (MLK, JFK, LBJ comments or Mr. Clintons "fairytale" comments) until yesterday, and at that time Mr. Obama said he and his team had made no comments, editors, other democrats, not his surrogates had drawn their own conclusions and spoke out.

    The thing I don't like about the Clintons is they refuse to accept responsibility for their actions:
    Mr Clinton – I did not have sexual relations with that woman
    Mrs. Clinton – It's a vast right wing conspiracy (no your husband lied to you)
    Mr. Clinton – The "whole" thing is a fairy tale – yes he was talking about the war, but neglects to say which I don't expect him to that Obama did say he doesn't know how he would have voted because he wasn't privvy to the Intelligence Report but from his vantage point the case was not made. Where is the inconsistency in that? He never said he wouldn't fund the war initially, that is just a lie
    Mrs. Clinton surrogates – send out email claiming Obama backs down on hard votes – She knows for a FACT because Planned Parenthood and NARAL told her and anyone who will listen that the "present" vote was a strategy!

    They are dragging this race into the gutter and there is no need for it. They both bring different experiences lets discuss those differences.

    January 14, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  6. Walt, TX

    Why does anyone care what a porn salesman has to say?

    January 14, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  7. darrell

    A change is coming

    The modern day Pharisee did not sleep well, knowing other S.C. have Awaken from the influence of the old Status Quo politicians.

    Pharisee, you are witnessing a spiritual awakening. Look beyond the veil. See man Rightly is our Goal.

    Obama has the victory, not in you, in God

    Clinton on the record! Honesty not been their best friend

    Ha Ha

    Obama will be ready to take on GOP easily, after the Clintonian storm. Which is merely Carnal thinking not man.

    Thank You Clinton Proponent

    Mr. Johnson took a Stand, - if he wants change, would he be willing to change that stance

    Phillians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

    January 14, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  8. Gbryant

    Why shouldn't Obama have his past brought up. He is fair game, just like everyone else. Just because he is new and we don't know much about him, do we have to tip toe around him? Join the race Obama, it is just how it is.

    Go Hillary.

    January 14, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  9. Bob, Florida - RFO

    The Obama camp did not raised the issue of race about their lose in New Hampshire.

    The vote difference was approx 7,400+ with both candidates receiving over 100,000 votes.

    With a black population of 0.7% in New Hampshire how can that have been the difference !!!!!! Barack Obama's supporters were real supports not blind followers. Just because the polls did not factor in the silent Democratic Hillary majority accounts for the voters that support status quo Democrats, are never polled, did not contribute to there campagn and as such was not factored into polling that had prevoiusly had a margine of error less that what occured in New Hampshire.

    Please let the baby boomer generation move on into retirement with all their issues regarding race, class, creed, color, religion, etc.

    Vote Barack Obama for a United America!

    "I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now I see!"

    January 14, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  10. Intelegent

    The Clintons are tainting this campaign with their negative energy. At any cost, the Clintons want their oval office. Honestly, we all know that Bill Clinton will be in his third term if Hillary wins. More Oval office drama. Johnson's comments simply show that the Clintons will never eradicate cooperate tax breaks.

    January 14, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  11. 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, well let's just say, inappropriate relations 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 with Washington Politics she knows how to play the game.

    That whole Universal Health Care fiacso that lead to a republican majority is behind her. The Republicans were bound to get back in.

    This may not seem like change but she has 32 years of experience.

    January 14, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  12. Chris Duncan

    Mr. Johnson's comments are insulting to me. He made reference to Sen. Obama's past but mention nothing of his own. Mr. Johnson's should reflect on his network that allows young African-American men to disrespect young African-American women in music videos. It seems like Sen. Obama has learned from his mistakes when he was younger, but Mr. Johnson will not if there is a profit to be made.

    January 14, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  13. Charlotte NC

    People fall all over Bob Johnson for his money and overlook the sad impact he has had on Black youth.

    January 14, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  14. AJ, IL

    The news media loves political fights, without a doubt. The weekend titles have sensational, like this one, CLINTON AND OBAMA BATTLE OVER RACE. There has been no battle or back-and-forth over race. Hillary Clinton raised the race card as her ill-advised comments she made about MLK and LBJ. Obama has not touched the issue until Jan. 13th. when his response was short and simple. Now the Clintons role out black billionaire Bob Johnson to personally attack Obama's past teen years drug abuse. It that what the Clinton campaign has resorted to, getting well-known supporters to talk ill about a fellow candidate's actions when they where 15 years old! Heck Obama already disclosed this unfortunate event in his life in his book 10 to 20 years ago. GIVE ME A BREAK!

    OBAMA in 08!

    January 14, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  15. Dbl Standards

    Bill got atacked when he said he didn't "inhale." What makes Obama, his campaign and supporters think he will not get attacked for using cocaine. This is nothing compared to what the GOP is going to do to him. He's letting the media do his dirty work while he sits back and plays the innocent bystander. The truth hurts.

    January 14, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  16. kevin from alaska

    Oh boy, the guy that owns BET is criticizing Barack for drug use.. The difference: Barack disavows his drug use and encourages kids to stay clean; BET however airs mostly music videos encouraging drug use, sexual promiscuity, and murder. Uh huh.

    January 14, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  17. darrell

    BET has been a tool to making drugs Cool.

    Not your doing Mr. Jonhson.

    Your Just the keeper.

    Many times we know not what we are doing, when the billions are pilling in. Carnal thinking is at fault, not man.

    God's Grace is for you and all.

    Pharisee pious thinking, thinks that grace and redemption is held in his or her pocket.

    God is a all Loving God.

    January 14, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  18. Alice, VA

    Take a close look at Hillary in the picture accompanying this ticker. Does she look the least bit bothered that Bob Johnson had just slung mud towards Obama? His silence after his remarks are telling. By saying nothing, she endorsed his comments. The woman is a hypocrite and a perpetual liar.

    January 14, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  19. David

    As a Black Man, I have to say that I am disgusted in this BET founders remarks. First of all, Who the hell is he anyways? He doesnt mean anything to me, never heard of him before.

    He has, like Hillary riden on the back of others. Hillary rode on the back of Bill, and this BET idiot rode on the back of my people by selling them this (BET) full of rapers, sex drugs and violence on his television network. AS A BLACK MAN, and NO I am NOT WHITE, He disgust me. Shaquile O'neil actually devotes his time to the kids and gives back to society in a good way. All this BET owner done has givien us false hopes and destroyed our black community.

    Most importantly, As a AMERICAN, He has sold us all out.!

    January 14, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  20. RealChange

    Someone actually wrote they are reconsidering their position based on THIS ARTICLE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Real change needed? The American people have done their own research and don't rely on CNN spin to tell you who to vote for.

    All of this discussion of attacking based on race (it is just the candidate's camps trying to position for votes) will end as soon as they are out of South Carolina. Try ignoring the media spin of the campaign spin. Good Grief. It's sad. What a bunch of sheeple.

    January 14, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  21. Greg

    cheap shot Johnson and you know it. you must have the most to gain for a Hillary victory.

    January 14, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  22. Lucinda

    OK kids, let's play nice! I am not sure as of yet, just who will get my vote, but as this campaign continues, I know I don't like the dirty play that is begininning to take place in the arena.
    Is Senator Obama so inseure about his position that he needs to dissect every word of every comment that other candidates are making. Especially when they are true and thoroughly documented in the archives of our History? Come on Senator, you are losing ground in the department of having finesse and CLASS. You don't want to go there. You seem to be trying to gain ground with the black community in the South by inflaming the black community. And, are you comparing yourself with Dr. King to the point where you are on the verge of claiming you will continue his work????????? Is this the direction you are headed in???
    All comments and inferences are subject to determination aren't they? Tell me that Senator Hillary Clinton took away from the efforts of Martin Luther King by saying what is true. Sorry, but the truth is that Dr. king, as many before him, worked hard to raise the awareness of the needs and plights of the black community, and fought to meet these needs and diminish these plights, but he couldn't make it happen all by himself, it took a President to actualy make it happen. This is true, like it or not.
    I suppose that Senator Obama would also make an issue if Hilary had said that it took a President, namely Abraham LIncoln, as well as thousands of civil war victims, most of whom were white to free the slaves. Why is it so hard to admit and embrace the truth? why is it so hard to give credit where credit is due?
    If Obama wants to gain ground with all races in this great country, he would stop dissecting every comment and turning it into a racial issue.
    I see this as a "below the belt" tactic to discredit Hilary which has every potential of being a "shot in the foot " for Obama. Talk about one cutting one's own throat !!!

    January 14, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. Dull

    CNN is getting duller by the day and the bloggers are eating it up!

    CNN's spin of a writer's spin of a person's spin of a campaign's spin. Beautiful!

    Woohoo! I can see the change beginning with the people... Ha!

    January 14, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  24. Lucinda

    I have a big problem with even considering a candidate who is #1) muslim, #2) who refused to salute the american flag during the playing of the National Anthem. President Barrack Husein Obama? Where are we ?

    January 14, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  25. Dbl Standards

    Obama and his campaign have said they wouldn't turn this into a "race" issue, but that was certain to happen. But they appear to be letting others do it for them so that they can stay looking like the good candidate. I think this gives Obama and his camp the perfect opportunity to turn this into a race issue so that he doesn't have to address policies. Perfect distraction for them. Do they and the media think we are all that stupid? Hillary's past has come up and they even exaggerate about it so what makes Obama and his camp think it's not going to happen to him.

    January 14, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
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