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. martine jordan

    now folks in the black community are out attacking each other. the black community is going to benefit as long as Hillary or Obama gets the nomination. Neither Bill or Hillary said anything that was offensive. In fact, Hillary was correct, without LBJ signing the legislation, MLK dream could have been put off for decades. Do you think Nixon would have enacted it? Right now we dont have any black leaders with that kind of influence, except may Oprah. It takes someone with enough courage to bring about legislation AND someone else with the power to enforce it. We need to get behind one of them and SHUT UP. The longer this goes on, the less power we have.

    January 14, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  2. Omar Norfolk VA

    What exactly has Hillary done with all of this "Experience"? Look at what "experience" has done for this country currently!

    January 14, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  3. Nancy

    When are the Clinton's going to realize that no one cares about how they feel about the other candidates? We want to know where they stand on the issues and what they intend to do about it. So far Hillary's stand on immigration is not acceptable to me, (what part of illegal doesn't she understand?) as to the other issues, can anyone tell me what her positions truly are and how she plans to get Congress to back her? So far it sounds like more of the same to me. Does anyone else feel the same way as I do?

    January 14, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  4. Sig, Los Angeles CA

    Robert Johnson has the nerve to raise questions about anyone. Afterall, this is the man that introduced BET to the black community. He is more responsible for the plight of the black community today than almost any other individual.

    January 14, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  5. Janel, St. Paul, MN

    The look of glee upon Senator Clinton's face is sickening.

    January 14, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  6. Sig, Los Angeles CA

    As a life long Democrat, I will NOT support Hillary Clinton. IF she wins the nomination, she will need the black vote, and she will not get my vote. I have no idea who I'll vote for; I won't go Republican necessarily. However, I'm sure there will be many third party candidates on the ballot. While I may be throwing my vote away, I will not support Hillary Clinton under any circumstances.

    As a black person who has supported the Democratic Party, I couldn't even THINK that something like this could happen in our party. I expect it from the Repulicans, but I thought Dems knew better. However, some of the most prejudice and judgemental people I have ever met were liberals, not conservatives; so there ya go. In essence, this goes to show we don't have a party and, from here on out, we should make any candidate regardless of party fight for our vote.

    January 14, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  7. C. B

    This is a sad day in our country when we allow the "news media", who must be starving for news, to exploite white versus black. Both Clinton and Obama are talking about there record, what they have done and what they plan on doing. Are we going to allow the media to continue? This race is not about color but in fact about our future!

    January 14, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  8. thingsthatmakeyougo.hmm...

    Grow up...it's called politics! And since when is it not ok to use accurate admissions of guilt to have us ask if this is the type of leader we want leading our country.....Hillary has come from the middle class.....made the right choices....been a public servant by helping and serving the disadvantaged.....why the hate for a woman that has dedicated her life to making change in government and the lives as much as possible....because she chose to stay with her husband who has made mistakes.....she's an upstanding woman and leader! Obama followers....quit crying over the truth......

    January 14, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  9. Fari

    Once again, history will have a hankerchief-wearing Negro do the dirt for whites by informing upon any Black that attempts leadership in this country. The Republicans will have a field day as the cannibalistic tactics inherent in internecine battles among Black Americans rages on into the 21st century.

    January 14, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  10. Lucy

    Bob in Florida, I know it's not about the "drugs". I was responding to those diminishing his drug use to "pot". This drug and race issue is just a way in my opinnion to get him to not talk about issues. Obama and his campaign say he is not getting negative –no, he's letting others do it for him while he sits back and appears the good ol' candidate. But, what we the voter needs to do is to quit allowing the news media to take control of the election. The news media has a vital role in informing the public of what the politicians are promising. However, it should be honest, fair and not be one sided in their reporting. But over the years the news media has became like a circus. It's all about ratings and they've also become more biased. Good journalists should report elections/news in a non-partisian way, suppressing their own political views inorder to allow the public to make up their minds solely on the basis of what the various candidates are offering. THEY ARE NOT DOING THIS. WE ALL should not be buying what they are selling. It's a sad that we no longer have professionals reporting and broadcasting the news. Gone are the Tom Brokaw's, W alter Cronkite's, John Chancellor's, Chet Huntley's and David Brinkley's ( to name a few). That was journalism. Thank God we still have Bill Moyers! What happened to the journalism code of ethics??

    January 14, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  11. Troy- Boston

    Why the double standard? Why can we not talk about Obama's past? How is this not playing a fair game? I don't get it! Everyone who is calling the Clinton campaign disgusting is extremely hypocritical. Disgusting here is only the fact that an arrogant, full of himself, inexperienced joke is running for persident of the United States. Obama has absolutely no substance. However, they say that a people get only what they deserve in a leader. So enjoy America- Barack Hussein Obama– the next preident.

    January 14, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |


    January 14, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  13. Steph

    Sorry. I don't trust Obama. At least I 'know' the Clintons. I think that they really are well-meaning (call me naive). With Obama, I'm just not clear on where he stands, what he stands for and allying himself with Al Sharpton, someone who is very much a reactionary, is not helping his presidential bid.

    I really don't think Obama knows what he's doing and someone without clear direction will easily be swayed by more influential forces – for better or worse.

    People need to have character, a real track record, and a clear direction on what's right, even when it's hard. I don't see that in Obama and I don't think he has any place on our next presidential ballot.

    January 14, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  14. will

    Wasn't Shaheen national co-chair?

    January 14, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  15. Deb

    Experience, experience, experience - come on people - this country needs to get back on its feet not be dangeling waiting for Obama to be in training for 4 years... You go girl - you got my VOTE HIllary.....

    January 14, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  16. Good Grief!

    It's amazing how hostile and mean Obama supporters are on this thing. You let the meida play mind games with you. All of you hear and see what you want to. You do not appear to be intillegent enough to "think" on your own. You jump on the bandwagon. It's amazing how hateful you people are. The filty accusations that come out of our mouths. And you talk about unity? Good Lord, you people couldn't even bring unity within your own familes and you think "a" president is going to do that! HA. Go back and read what you write. You make false accusations, belittle and ridicule Hillary and Bill. There's no way you strive for unity. It's fine to have an "opinion" but some of you are plain mean and immature. If I were you I'd start praying right now that what you have said doesn't come back to you. Don't think that how we treat others and what we say about them doesn't some back to haunt us or someone close to us. None of us are exempt from trouble and challenges in life. Just rememer what goes around comes around. I'm leaving this thing. I have more selft respect than to hang with people who don't know how to disagree or express their views like adults.

    January 14, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  17. RealityKing

    Hillary literally stood there and did not say one word to stop Johnson's personal attack on Obama. So much for decrying politics of personal destruction. Oh, I guess that must mean on those aimed at her..

    January 14, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  18. LaTanya in Iowa

    I guess the truth hurts! My blog on yesterday did not make the cut! I'm sure because I stated facts that were made by Hillary when she was in Iowa. Anyways, maybe this post will make it. Hillary shouldn't say anything else to futher divide us!

    January 14, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  19. Tim, Seattle

    Look at how many people here in these posts are dems who will not vote for Hillary. Take heed, dems. This is a huge red flag. Best be paying attention to it.

    I'll say it again, Hillary (depite good policies I generally support) will be divisive in wanting to get back all the republicans. As much as many of us like to imagine that scenario, we dont want anyone to act it out anymore. We want unity or at least talk of common ground. The 'lets get back the GOP' thing is turning people off. Me included.

    This time around, If you are going to run a divisive campaign you are going to lose.
    Hillary is devisive, and with this many dems saying they will stay home or vote GOP instead if she becomes the nomineee, then dems should re-think and vote for whomever has the future-looking message of uniting the country.
    If Barack stays above this fray, hes the guy. Independants will swing his way.

    If Hillary wins the nomination, say goodbye to the independant vote and a lot of dems stay home. Republicans win, and we sit around another 4 years kicking ourselves for finding yet another way to screw up an election practically handed to us on day 1.

    January 14, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  20. Tim, Seattle

    Lucy wrote: "Um, he didn't just some pot! He did hard drugs"

    Thats right , W was doing cocaine in the 80's big time. Your right, he shouldnt have been the president.

    January 14, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  21. Brian

    Anyone who thinks that Obama is holier-than-thou and not a true POLITICIAN needs to only look at his voting record in the IL legislature, when he voted "present" on a regular basis so he wouldn't offend the people who wanted him to vote "yes" and also the people who wanted him to vote "no." What kind of true leadersip is that? Barack Obama has wanted to be president for as long as Hillary and he'll do anything to win–don't be fooled. He TALKS big, but in reality he is just like all the rest of them.

    January 14, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  22. Karen

    I'm sorry.... but this is too funny. People are actually writing that this article, an article written by Sasha and Alexander, an article posted by CNN,

    an item less than 20 sentences.... HAS CHANGED THE WAY THEY WILL VOTE!!!!!

    January 14, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  23. andy

    Im Latino and guess what Im for Mrs. Clinton! remember prop 187 in california !! Latinos do!

    January 14, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  24. Deanie46

    I am Caucasian, a senior citizen and a female. I like Obama and don't think Clintons like the idea that if heDOES win they will be losing. 2 Presidental incomes, plus more security and secret service monies and even tho' she says she is for the people. just listen to her. Every other word is 'I did this and I did that and I can even talk southern when I'm in a black church!!!!!
    SLick Willy is the laugh of everyone, "who is going to polish h im next?"

    January 14, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  25. Steven

    Remember the vows for a clean contest? A unkept promise! Doesn't bode well for the hopes that other promises will be kept as well!

    January 14, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
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