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. kim

    you know i have been hearing so much bickering ..........................
    sen. hillary clinton has my vote the expierence does count
    i give my prayers and thank you's to you sen. hillary clinton and your family.

    January 14, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  2. mb

    Do you honestly want a leader who *hasn't* tried drugs?

    I didn't think so.

    January 14, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  3. carol

    Go Hillary. That Obama was snide to her, that they keep asking her about Bill's infidelity, that they suggest she is a racist – all ridiculous and bigoted.

    Go Hillary. You have always turned the other cheek. Stay above the "black on white racism".

    Those with any concious "Love YOU"

    January 14, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. Lucy

    Um, he didn't just some pot! He did hard drugs.

    January 14, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  5. Jay






    January 14, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  6. tennessee gurl

    The Clintons are shameful.

    January 14, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  7. Katzenelson

    I just figured out who the next President and the next Vicepresident will be... wow!

    January 14, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  8. Jay Graham, Dallas, TX

    African Americans should understand that Barak's prominence to the national politics has started from 2004. Whereas, Clintons have been on the stage since 1992. Hillary started her political career since Watergate when Barak was in school. You can imply whatever you can on Mr. Johnson's comments. Everything is fair in politics especially on a presidential race. Barak is extremely good on his oratory skills. He is still young and will get his chance to the top position when time comes. Hillary is in her prime position and deserves presidency now. Let people base their vote to these candiadates on their qualifications and strategies and leave the politics behind. We need a democrat in 2008. Hillary now and Obama in 2012 or 2016.

    January 14, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  9. Ray

    So Hillary defends herself after months of everyone going after her and she's the villan?

    And why does Obama get a free pass about his drug use? Why cant that be brought up? He did them right? He wrote about it in his book right? Why does he think or his "fans" think we can talk about it? Like Obama would say….
    " YES WE CAN!"

    January 14, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  10. butch

    Vote Hillary!Obama doesn`t have enough experience and is an admitted
    drug user.

    January 14, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  11. Ray

    What a bunch of Obama BABY'S on her.." am a democrat but if Hillary is elected ill vote republican" or "If Hillary wis the democrat then there are two votes from my house for the republican" GROW UP!!!

    WE ARE ONE PARTY!!!!! You dont see Hillary supporters crying and posting crap like that on here.

    January 14, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  12. G.T.O,

    Ahhhhhhhh A vote for Hillary is a Vote for a Walmart near you and more low low wages.Yippieeeeeeeeeee

    January 14, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  13. I WAS voting for Clinton

    If you are trying to get Black people to vote for you then why in the world would you go and get Bob Johnson. The first Black Billionaire who made his money off of exploiting young Black Minds with showing videos 24 hours a day and playing basketball. BET did not find any substance until he left…. I have no respect for the Clintons anymore!

    January 14, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  14. Chandra

    Sunday’s Debates: January 14, 2008

    Sen. H. R. Clinton called for resolve and the employment possibilities that would be forthcoming. The same thing Pres. Bush said in his State of the Union Address. Yet, these jobs were nor for the unemployed citizens/Middle Class America. It advanced non-citizens/unqualified into advances levels, without the process of “Stringent Guidelines”, which disqualify/ignored the unemployed/Middle Class Citizens because their skills are viewed as not having “current experiences” and not having the undisclosed guidelines to be employed at entry levels or any open job positions; a process to eliminate Middle Class Citizens.

    This is a pre-mediated habit forming and pattern to unburden the responsibilities and to have the excuse that the system is designed to be such. But, these are the same Political Officials who designed the system to have these habits forming problems; they change from Democrats to Republicans every four years. Not that they change to correct this habit. This is why there are the excuse that Americans are refusing these type of jobs and that Americans/Citizens should take any job to survive.

    This pattern repeated itself many times over so to push the unemployed, undocumented Citizens, poor person into Old Age, Hospitalization, and to have them medicated to be qualify for Welfare, Medicare and Social Security Disabilities. A process viewed as a solution which has been used for years in all of the Presidential Administrations. This need to be corrected not change from a man to a woman, a white to a minority, a Republican to a Democrat, a citizen to a non-citizen….etc.

    Sen. Clinton’s remark as to a woman is not an illegal is a very delusional thing to say. She had not been living in reality, now who is running a “fairy tale” campaign???

    Sen. Clinton is bullying her way to the top or paving the road for her daughter’s future. She went on Meet the Press with Mr. Tim Russet to let the people know that there is money for non-citizens, illegal aliens, immigration issues but citizens of American MUST WAIT FOR THE WAR TO END IN IRAQ to have relief from the pain, suffering, hardship, abuse, unemployment, homelessness…etc. Seriously, this kind of non-sense is what is insulting Citizens of this Country and having non-citizens, aliens, immigrants…etc. piss/curse/disrespect…(lack of a better word) upon the US Citizens. Shouldn’t all the money go to Citizens instead; poor or otherwise???

    How many new jobs were created??? How many unemployed was hired???? How many qualify unemployed was employed at min. wage, entry level…etc???? How many non-citizens got raises instead????? Why run a campaign for change and not run a campaign for CORRECTING THE ISSUES??????

    I would not be surprised if Financial Institutions (BANKS, Lenders…employers…etc) are the one to have the control. By pitting the issues with the CANDITIATE they feel will best fit their needs… Which financial institution is for what candidate???? Bank of America is probably the most vicious and damaging to the Middle Class Citizens from since they were FLEET….Ms. C. Jugmohan

    January 14, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  15. Lisa,Corpus Christi, Tx.

    I am digusted by the whole Clinton campaign. I am an Edward's supporter, but I am deeply disturbed by the Clinton's philosophy…the end justifies the means.

    Regardless of the fact that Obama never once brought up the issue of race, it is being used against him. The Clintons knew exactly what they were doing…it was calculated. And, they have divided Americans once again.

    The Bush administration has given more aid to Africa than any other administration, including the Clinton administration. Also, he appointed the first African-American secretary of state.

    Please remind again what "great thing" the Clintons have done for the African-American community again.

    I wonder how long it will take Johnson to cash in his favor, if Hillary elected.

    January 14, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  16. who is robert johnson?

    Barack Obama did admit that he used drugs along time ago. He was honest about it. The media and those making a big deal about it are just upset they cant find dirt now to scandalize his name down the road. As for you Mr. Johnson, Obama said that he did them you look like you're still on them

    January 14, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  17. To Daniel Jones

    Good perspective Daniel Jones! Thanks for caring.

    Nice of you to point out the divisiveness and hopefully this silliness will end soon. Your observations about Obama are on the money. I'm an independent leaning toward McCain on one side and Obama on the other. The Clintons are the most divisive, so they are not even on the radar anymore. This seems to be the stance of most of the independents I know and read about.

    January 14, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  18. mama for Obama

    We want an end to dirty politics. Hillary and Bill continue to use a smear campaign! -3 of her staff have had to quit due to their dirty tricks or inappropriate remarks. There is a pattern here and it continues every day. Yet, It is wonderful to see so many people stand up against their tactics and endorse Obama for his integrity. Thank you Obama for inspiring so many of us!

    January 14, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  19. Millie Bea

    What Bob Johnson did-they way he said what he said- only to come back later and say that he was misinterpreted- was just slimy- and the Clintons embrace this... when will people wake up. Go watch Primary Colors......now.

    January 14, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  20. Julie, Phila, PA

    BET, Bob Johnson, has ruined a Generation of Minds. And, frankly, as an American, that disturbs me greatly and also disgusts me.

    He has made a fortune by peddling smut, sex and violence on his TV station which has had a profoundly negative and damaging effect on our youth both in America and other countries which air his shows. It is fair to say that he did not care about the damaging effect this would have on our youth, as sexual and violent behavior has soared due to such explicit and visual behavior which could be calledX-rate, and which is frankly embarrsing. These programs are shown daily, all day, over and over again, programming our childrens' minds and behavior. It is obvious as a billionaire, acquiring money and wealth was more important to him than the ruination of a Generation of Minds. His shows have had a direct effect upon our youth for the last 20 years, an it will take years to undo the damage his shows, and shows like this have had on our youth.

    In contrast, Obama has been meeting with rappers in an attempt to get them to put out positive messages for our children and to denounce the negative and demeaning messages to date. I believe his campaign and presidency of hope and all people coming together as a until will have a positive effect on a Generation of Minds.

    I do not think many people of character are putting much store into what he is trying to insinuate about Senator Obama. And I wonder, has Senator Clinton sunk so low as to need him as her surrogate, a man who has ruined a Generation of Minds?

    January 14, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  21. luis

    However you like to put all of this while Obama was smoking pot and other hard drugs by his OWN admission on his latest book Dreams from my father, Hillary was already out there working to make things better for all of us. LOOK IT UP… Let’s make history Hillary 2008!!!

    January 14, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  22. Matt

    Doesn't Bob Johnson make his living off romanticizing drugs, crime and misogynistic attitudes?

    January 14, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  23. sal lincoln nebraska

    Who hasnt tried drugs at one time or another? How many adult male and female are still using drugs at this very moment, wont admit too it because its illegal and you can get fired from your job. So there is no accurate assessment of how many americans use drugs and what age range. Even so prescription drugs which could be just as dangerous as heroin and whatever the hell else you want to complain about are on the rise and are legal, still their drugs and they still cause just as many health problems and family problems as alcohol and tobacco. Is there any question this day in age after 80 years of propaganda that POT isnt harmful, that it dosnt break up familys, that you dont smoke yourself a doooob and then go drive and kill a family of innocent motorists or run over a kid in a drive through. Who cares if Obama smoked now or back then or whenever, I prefer a president who tokes up, i would trust him much much much more that way

    January 14, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  24. Jo Ann

    I think there has been plenty of mudslinging on both sides of the Clinton/Obama feud. The difference is that Clinton does it herself while Obama lets his supporters do it for him so that he can seem righteous.

    Many in the media are willing to call whites racists because they suspect they aren’t telling the pollsters the truth about who they are voting for, but they don’t seem to have any problem that the Black community, without hesitation, admits openly that they are voting for Obama because he is Black. I can understand their desire to “make history” and get a Black in the White House, but it still smacks of racism.

    It is a tragedy that with all of the problems facing our country today that race and gender are what everyone seems to be concentrating on. Let’s get back to the issues, that is what I will base my decision on.

    January 14, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  25. Adams

    I glad some of the African American community is starting to express the fact that
    This amature Obama has some real problems.
    Unfortunately Obama is trying to play the race card. But we all know that the Clinton
    family is well loved by African Americans.

    Think America Vote to win. Vote Hillary.

    January 14, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
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