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. Jason, California

    I have never seen a picture of the Clintons visiting any churches to give speeches or talk to any other group other than African Americans. You spend money on venues for other groups why not African Americans. I understand the history of meeting in black churches but also I know that now we have other venues (and I'm not talking of night clubs which is where Former Pres. Clinton visited in DC.) so lets let Sundays be a time of worship.
    I am insulted by Bob Johnson as an African American; BET was and is the worst station on the air, even when he owned the station. What happened to the news that was broadcasted on the station, replaced with videos of course? Bob Johnson is it not true that the Clinton administration had less African American employees than that of the Bush administration??

    January 13, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  2. Jude

    Mr Bob Johnson, one of the main profit maker of the BLACK ENTERTAINMENT TV. As an African black, I don't see how your BET has helped uplift the spirit of black Americans. All I see is music videos and programs that are really uneducational to people who seek to break a stereotype and transit onto mainstream America. For you to come out and criticize Barack on his previous drug use as a youthful adult, just shows how irresponsible you are. When we look at black dignitaries in America who truely make a difference, Al Sharpton made the list and you definitely didn't.. Since money is the only thing you have speaking for you, America will have a new voice in the white house. And it will be the voice of Barack Obama.

    January 13, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  3. anonymous

    People! do not let the apparent hype fool your intelligent minds. Hillary is using a African American to gain publicity and votes. He has surely fell into her trap. I say where was this mogue when the Black community needed him. Making his millions of dollars.

    People! Wake up and smell the coffee. Obama is our man and has the platform that All Americans can stand on.

    January 13, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. Beans

    I will NEVER vote for Hillary either–NEVER. She's dishonest and can't be trusted. The experience she keeps speaking of is full of scams and dishonest politics.

    She planned for this man to speak up...just another way she does her dirty work. They won't find skeletons in Obama's closet because he has been honest and disclosed everything. So now they'll pick on anything he's been honest about.

    Most people under the age of 60 have used drugs in some manner. Even Bill Clinton did...but of course he didn't inhale. Just another example of the Clinton's deceipt.

    Get real...he used drugs...he has moved on. And, oh baby, look how he's moved on! Move over, Hillary, he's come a long way, baby!


    January 13, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. Axel, California

    What's wrong with a few "Youthful Indiscretions"? Other than it sounds like Republican double talk, of course... 😀

    January 13, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  6. evita

    wow. what a hypocrit. this supporter of hillary's is the same person who SOLD OUT to certain "special interests" for the mighty $. what a joke. since when is he or anyone else including hillary lacking of moral weight and significance able to even mention barack obama's name?

    ...oh yes, and hillary understands what it is to be a minority? to be less prevalent? ha! her name, her husband's name/reputation has never allowed her to be a minority. time will tell and show how terribly off and wrong mr. johnson and hillary are to be so divisive and so arrogant but the only candidate with a true vision, passion, and strength to lead our country in such a time is mr. barack obama.

    January 13, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  7. Amazing

    Bob Johnson made millions running that BET station and now he's trying to be insulted.

    January 13, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  8. Tom Davie

    Golden rule

    Distort anything Hillary or Bill say as RACIST no matter what.

    never mind he was called the black president. Never mind all the Clinton contributions to african americans.

    just key in on the obama camps attempt to paint them all of a sudden as outright CRACKERS all of a sudden.

    After all, we got a south carolina vote coming up.

    This makes me ASHAMED to be an american when people pull this crap.

    January 13, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |

    bob johnson should stay out of this. he need to worry about he bobcats team and leave politics alone. At least Obama is telling the truth and the republicans enough problems of their own

    January 13, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  10. Geoff Ombao

    Though I have never voted for a Democrat for president, I would definitely do so for Obama, should he get the nomination. I believe his message of unification is exactly what this country needs, not the smear politics that Senator Clinton practices.

    Senator Clinton should not passively allow her supporters/campaigners to insult her fellow candidates. If this is how she treats her fellow democrats, then I shutter to think how we Independents will be treated if she is elected. (God help you if your a Republican ...)

    January 13, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  11. Mekki

    it's funny !!! llok clinton is not a president yet and she is dividing us already :-). what we need is a uniter , we are sick of this politics where you keep attacking each other and then you say,,,oh oh it's not personal...what the F........... if this is not personal,,,so what is it then ??... i am so angry and sick of the clintons politics,,,i like bill alot but it's time to change and america does not belong to the Bushs and the clintons...maybe next will be JEBB bush...MMM why not !! pfff clinton did it so why not Bush again... they make me sick.

    January 13, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  12. Micah, Canon City, CO

    Oh as if.

    I've never known anybody to refer to street-level organizing and community aid as "doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing..."

    Perhaps we should be more concerned that Clinton's supporters can't actually refer to community service but only allude to it. What a ridiculous cop-out.

    The suggestion that he was referring to anything other than Obama's drug use is preposterous.

    He should be ashamed of himself. Way to attack one of your own for a buck you hypocrite.

    And no, the Clintons are not racist. They're filthy political chess-players who will pit two people of another race against each other, but no, they're not racists.

    If this is Hillary's new voice (what's new about lying?) then I'm putting in my ear plugs. This sort of awful political guerrilla warfare makes me sick.

    January 13, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  13. John ny, ny

    Hannah- don't worry about hillary. My family hardly ever votes however we will make up 15 votes in my family who are first time voters for one of yours for hillary.

    Appearing with black People in your pictures doesn't mean I am voting for you. These are old leaders who have followed white people and persuade them to do them favours when they need them but when things like Katrina hit they have noone to help them. I am a spanish and hillary concerns and the republicans is not what I am looking for.
    I want someone who can talk to me or who I can reason with and I am voting Obama!

    January 13, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  14. darrell

    Obama is stirring up Much, Just by his message of Hope.

    Modern day Pharisee’s are loosing power and control

    Instead of a fall of a country, we are witnessing the fall of a legacy, of a outdated Status Quo.

    Hope prevail over all attacks

    All about the Money

    The American people are going to win this time.

    America Sellouts come on all income levels.

    Condemnation is not the will of God, just redemption

    Is this where we are going as a Democratic Party.

    How important is the drug issue. He brought it out in his Book. He must have foreseen the attacks coming.

    Talked to Classroom of students as early as Dec. 2007.

    The Dem. vote is going to be split. GOP in again in 2008.

    Stop the self-hate, and the self-righteous hypocritical judgement. We suppose to be about issues that have not been addressed by the Old Status Quo.

    Mr. Johnson has paved the way for many. Do not hate the product of this progress. Be a mentor to him for progress.

    Did Mr. Johnson have big Problem with Bill Clinton’s issue as a youth, or other democratic politicians?

    Peace, Be still, to

    Make nothing of this Naught

    January 13, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  15. Disgusted Black Man

    Personally I am horrified to say the least, the thought that blacks are supporting Hillary Clinton just because Obama is not black enough or "I rather vote for a winning candidate". Lets be smart and not vote for Hillary just because she says she supports blacks. She may support the blacks personally but her donors and her buddies may not. If Hillary wins, Hispanics will be getting more attention than us. Don't believe me, check the polls in Nevada. Hispanics are voting for Hillary because she has major plans for them and their association. For blacks, it is just all talk. Let's be smart and think for minute before casting our votes.

    If Hillary wins the nomination, there will be a Republican president and it will be a landslide victory. Hillary is playing a great game and taking advantage of Obama's honesty. For the first time, here is a black man who is really close of winning the White House. For us blacks, lets not complain later that "Blacks never get any opportunity". Here it is and it may not happen again for a long time.

    January 13, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  16. Mark Morris, Cupertino CA

    Mati said" I want to know what Obama did for the black community other than being half black."

    How about turning down a lucrative law career to be a community organizer in the poorer communities in Chicago, or being a civil rights lawyer?! Hillary's supporters seem to be as uninterested in the facts as she is.

    Hillary dodged every legitimate question Tim Russert asked her this morning. She refuses to accept responsibility for her many errors in judgement. Her experience is a joke.

    To quote Chris Rock:
    "I don't want the pilot's wife flying the plane!"

    January 13, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  17. Margaret

    My opinion of Hillary Clinton (and Bill Clinton for that matter) sinks to new lows each day.

    January 13, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  18. Aaron Levitt

    Well, whatever else is going on here, Bob Johnson is obviously lying through his teeth.

    First, he says, "...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."

    Then, he says that he was referring to Obama's community organizing! Sure thing: Johson couldn't bring himself to say the words "community organizing"; it was just too shameful. Tell me another one!

    BTW, Dreams of My Father is an extraordinary book by and partially about an extraordinary man, written before Obama was playing on the national stage. It's well worth reading, particularly now that he is running for President.

    January 13, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  19. elziax

    Ask yourself: It's not possible to live a life without doing things you later regret. Most people surpress these things, even the memory of them – and thereby throw away the chance to learn and benefit from their mistakes. Others admit these mistakes – to themselves and to others. They learn from them and can even teach others not to do the same mistakes.

    Don't know about you, but I'd always prefer someone as president who honestly and openly admits his mistakes over someone with a perfect, sleek biography without any turns, ups or downs. I simply cannot believe them, because a biography like this, without any mistakes, without anything to regret, always is fabricated!

    People who pretend to have lived a life like this are for sure not in the positions to throw mud at an open and honest personality like Obama. Like someone else said long ago: "Let him without sins throw the first stone!"

    January 13, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  20. Adam

    NANCY REAGON did drugs
    GEORGE W BUSH did drugs
    BILL CLINTON did drugs

    Drug use is a problem in our country. Using drugs at some point in your life does not disqualify you for presidential office.

    January 13, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  21. anonymous

    I had also thought I was going to vote for the Demcratic nominee no matter what, and I will vote for Edwards or Obama, but this is the last straw for Clinton with me. If she wins the nomination, I'll vote for Huckabee or McCain, if one of those two win on the GOP side. Her true colors are showing through now, and after the last seven years of Bush, I don't want another person like that in the White House.

    January 13, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  22. jay

    shame on you! johnson on taking a shot at a brother like tht.

    January 13, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  23. agnes

    I hope someone else come up with a BET channel after this or Black Americans turn off this channel and teach this guy what is to say this and what it is to diminish Obama!

    January 13, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  24. Matt

    We can go back and forth all day talking about the cheap shots BOTH candidates have made against each other. It is a wash.

    I am voting for Hillary because she's the most intelligent candidate running, she knows the isues inside and out, and has phenomenal international support.

    We need to fix the economy, ramp down the war in Iraq (and use those funds more appropriately), and rebuild international relationships.

    She is ahead of the game on all three issues, IMO.

    January 13, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  25. srs

    The best metaphor I can think about the difference between Clinton and Obama is the difference between owning the stock of large company e.g. Hone Depot and a Start up e.g. Google. In the case of the former the one thing that one can say for sure about the large cap is that CEO will do well no matter what happens to to the rest of the investors- not so about the start up.

    Whoever doubts this is an accurate description of the Clintons consider that at the end of the first Clinton Presidency the Democratic party had fewer senators, congressmen, governors, state legislatures and big city mayors. Their Presidency was a disaster for the Democratic party but they did all right

    January 13, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
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