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. leroy

    That quote makes absolutely no sense at all.

    January 13, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  2. terrondt

    well, i always said if obama is the nominee i would support him. im not sure if it is not hillary. bloomberg or gop for the 1st time in my life of voting in 20 years. goes both ways.

    January 13, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  3. shawn

    bob johnson should be ashamed of himself !!! this is the same guy who's shows on bet degrade black women everyday... it took black mothers to stop the late night video show he had on.

    January 13, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  4. kewl breeze

    YEAH ,,,, the head of BET ... has anyone viewed the junk on that network .... and did Hillary ever inhale ? OBAMA is the MAN ..... he is a threat the old school Black activists who are washed up ... washed up is what they are

    January 13, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  5. Jermaine

    Hillary can go to as many black churches as she wan, but she is the Devil. She need to blame her campaign, herself, and her husband for all their ills and not OBAMA. She got MAGIC JOHNSON in IOWA, no MAGIC there, now she go get the founder of BET, come on, who is he anyway. Maybe instead of attacking OBAMA he need to worry about his programs RAP video's direspecting women, and showing and glorifying drug use etc. OBAMA admitted his drug use years ago, that speak to his character. It tells allot about Hillary and Bills character when we have to revisit the 8 years in the Clinton Presidency. OBAMA can hit Clinton hard if he wanted to, but he choose to run a different campaign to unite this Nation. Hillary and her surrogates are so afraid. OBAMA did not say one thing about MLK, Hillary did, but she is too proud and arrogant to say she made a mistake, she was tired etc. This pass week, both her and her Husband are out trying to correct what they said, what they said they ment or they would not have said it in the first place. They are calculating, and a so not worth the air they bread.
    Hillary and Bill DNC moved up the nomination primary and caucauses to benefit her, it did not work out as planned and now they are crazy. In Nevada, the Unions endorse OBAMA, now Hillary and her supporters out there are trying to stop the vote, it won't work. In NH she rigged the election, and won by a hare, it won't work. A VOTE FOR HILLARY IS A VOTE FOR GEORGE W. BUSH. She is more like him than she is not, check her voting record in the Senate. Will the REAL HILLARY PLEASE STAND UP!


    January 13, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  6. PW Va

    The Clintons, especially, Hillary, have now become the lowest of the low...in my opinion, they're not only beneath contempt, they're beneath GW Bush, at this point and that's LOW!

    Bob Johnson, is becoming like so many others of this ilk (Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson to name only a few) ready to jump on the Clinton bandwagon (thinking there will be some type of pittance of a reward by doing so) and will be just as conveniently forgotten by the Clintons once they deliver black votes to Hillary's campaign.

    I fear Dr. King would be ashamed to have been associated with Jackson and Sharpton because it seems somehere along the way, they forgot what the struggle was all about in their "need for greed." The struggle was about obtaining a vision for the future and giving and leaving HOPE as our legacy for those that follow.

    January 13, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  7. G.Dever

    What about the SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE that I hear the Democrats stating as so important. And, yet, in this photo sits Hilary speaking at a church and Obama, today, giving a political speech in a Nevada church.
    I thought this was not permitted and that federal funding could be removed for any church that allowed a political speech or supported a political candidate. Will both of these churches now invite all of the other presidential candidates to speak to their congregation? If not, why not? And if yes, when will the invitation be extended?
    I am so tired of the black churches that use their pulpits for their political agendas. And, yet would be the first to complain of any other church that even attempted to speak of anything political. It's not only a double standard, but a VIOLATION OF FEDERAL LAW! Why is CNN closing their eyes to this and not reporting these outrageous violations.
    If the press is truly unbiased, this would be investigated!!! Let's see what CNN does.

    January 13, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  8. Jodie

    Mr. Johnson has a lot of nerve. I'm sure he took a puff or too. In fact he is in the age group that was tryng drugs during their college. Also wasn't there a report that he had some affair? I'm not saying of this is true but he who is without sin shall cast the first stone. Bob you shouldn't be throwing stones!

    January 13, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  9. James

    As a young white man in the 1960's and 70's I smoked pot, and I actually inhaled, and I tried other drugs as well. I am now approaching the age of 60, and I do not think that what I did then during those young years makes me incapable of having good judgement and being responsible. As parents and grandparents, we all know that some of our decisions during our teen and early adulthood years should not be held against us for the rest of our lives. Hillary must remember that her own husband smoked pot, and the rest of us at least admit that we inhaled. How do we know that she and Bill did not do the same thing we did? At least Barack Obama has been honest about it instead of saying "I didn't inhale" Bill also said "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" and that was not during his teen or early adulthood, that was when he was President of the United States.

    January 13, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  10. LaTonya, Berkley MI

    Hillary is making it harder and harder for me to support her. These personal attacks coming from her people (but without her approval, yeah right) are leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

    While I have never used illicit drugs, and certainly don't condone it, I find Senator Obama's honesty and forthrightness about the topic refreshing. Especially in light of her husband's 'I didn't inhale' response to drug use.

    Try again Hillary. Attack the man's plan for how he'd run the country. Attack the man's previous record. Attack the man's platform. But leave a bad choice the man made 20 to 30 years ago alone. I certainly wonder what you've got in your closet.

    You and your husband really shouldn't go here. And using a shill like Mr. Johnson (the founder of BET? Don't even let me go there) certainly doesn't help.

    January 13, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  11. Jan, Evergreen, CO

    Bob Johnson is a stooge for Bush's corporate America. The drug use Obama has admitted to is old news. Jeez, who but Billary did not do any drugs during the 60's and 70's? Of course Bill didn't inhale. What a crock. Stick to the issues that are important. Is Billary and Team scared if Obama is elected that at the first sign of crisis he will do some blow? Give me a break! Cry me another river Billary! Billary will scrape really low to get her 15 minutes of fame. Go Obama!!!

    January 13, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  12. ragingcentrist

    Clinton and her surrogates sure are gonna turn a lot of Democrats into Independents, aren't they? Every Independent voter I know is wanting to vote for Obama. If Hillary wins, I'll vote for Bloomberg or McCain.

    January 13, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  13. Utrena

    SC registered voters PLEASE vote now for Barack Obama! This is a travesty... You don't have to wait until January 26, 2008. You can vote absentee in person. Call your local Voter Registration office for further details. This can not be the next four years of our lives.

    Obama "08

    January 13, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  14. Mark C. Eades

    Here we go again. The Clinton's will stop at nothing to get back in the White House.

    January 13, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  15. anthony

    This is war now Hillary, without us you have no chance in November,

    January 13, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  16. Larry Buchas, New Britain, CT

    Uh, Bill? Bill?

    You said you tried but "didn't inhale." I respect honesty and coming to terms with one's past. The Clinton gang is dishonest and prefer to criticize others standing in their way.

    They have participated in deception and division their entire political career. Obama's campaign stands for unity and hope.

    January 13, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  17. Rita

    Well...I guess now Clyburn is going to issue a statement calling Mr. Johnson racist for bringing up the drug use thing...

    If any other politician had a history of drug use, it would be fair game in the election. Because it's Obama, doing so makes the discussion racist.

    Can anyone explain this?

    January 13, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  18. Major Man, Petersburg, VA

    How ironic, the founder of BET the network that pushes more images of drug use, criminal activity, and mysogyny in the African-American community than any other media outlet goes on the attack of Sen. Obama.

    Where's the outrage among Black women about Bob Johnson's network creation? This is the ultimate pander. Sameful!

    January 13, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  19. Julie, Binghamton, NY

    The guy stated that is not what he was referring to- why does the headline say otherwise?

    January 13, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  20. JCole

    I agree with some previous posters – I am a registered Democrat and have always voted that way; however, if Hillary were to win the Dem party's nomination I would start looking elsewhere. I am an Obama supporter, but have said (until recently) that if Hillary were to win the party's nomination I would vote for her. I don't see how I could possibly do that now after all of the terrible remarks that have been made by her and her campaign over the last week. I have to believe that this is how she would run her white house and our country and quite frankly I think that that is the last thing our country needs right now! Hopefully the Clintons will realize soon that they are not only hurting themsevles their campaign, by allowing these negative comments, but America as well!

    January 13, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  21. Utrena

    Nice try but we know what was inferred... Bob your words were: Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing but he said it in his book"...

    January 13, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  22. aj

    wow! Does the photo with Mr Johnson supposed to make us vote for Hillary! Please BET has gone to the dogs! They show nothing to educate our young people. Get Real!

    January 13, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  23. John, NC

    Is Hillary going to cry her way to the White House? What a phoney.

    January 13, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  24. Dilan Jay

    As a hardcore democrat I never thought I'd consider voting republican. Still if it comes to Hillary vs McCain I probably will go the other way.

    Or I'll probably not vote.

    January 13, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  25. Terry

    It sounds like the pot calling the kettle black. Anyone who dosn't remember Mr. and Mrs. I didn't inhale, should not throw stones in their glass house!

    January 13, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
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