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. asheto,Maryland

    Bob Johnson should be ashamed of himself and Hillary who always cries about personal attacks sits right there and did not condemns Bob's attacks on Obama.I had always respect ed the Clintons but the recent comments from Bill and Hillary made me to rethink about their attitude towards African-Americans.It seems hypocritical and it sounds like the Obama surge has expose their hypocricy towards blacks. Keep your heads up!! There is more shocking comments to come from the Clintons.

    January 13, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  2. kai, NYC, NY

    Obama talks like a preacher man, sometimes like a motivational speaker. He talks and talks, but I never hear him say anything. I'm not jumping on the bandwagon like blind mice. I've listened and haven't heard anything. I don't like Hillary, but at least she talks about real issues.

    January 13, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  3. Tad Hunter

    Hillary Clinton is getting desperate and slinging the mud around and around! I'm not moved by her alligator tears and I'm not amused by her phony southern accent! I would NEVER vote for this infortunate woman.

    January 13, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  4. Cheryl

    Just another day of the Clintons clarifying what they ment to say. I get the feeling that if what they say is questioned, they will put a spin on it to change it to a different meaning. It's like they shot from the hip and then have to cleanup the mess. Is this the candidate we want to elect when they have to correct most of what they say? Seems like they need a course on communications.

    January 13, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  5. Biggdawg

    Whatever. The media just chooses to ignore slights of Clinton by Obama supporters.

    January 13, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  6. JD, WI

    Obama just released an economy plan, which is a total copycat of the Clinton plan released last week. This is shockingly embarrassing that has never seen in political history. Even his economic advisor admits it’s similar to Clinton plan.
    Is this how Obama bring about change? By changing numbers of an opponent’s plan?
    If you can’t even come up with an original idea how can you be a change agent?
    Of course, Clinton camp has been asked for meat all this time.
    But it is unthinkable that Obama will produce meat stolen right from the Clinton’s refrigerator. This is real armature stuff.

    January 13, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  7. robby10001

    As I have written previously, The Clintons and their allies will stop at nothing to seize power. This is a frightening time for America.

    January 13, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  8. Dave

    The Clinton's and their supporters are desperate.

    January 13, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  9. martha

    This is to answer the writer....named kevin,,

    to answer your question what kind of a woman would stay with a man who cheats . It takes a very special woman.. strong woman..a Godly woman.....

    You see...it is much easier to leave the man than to forgive him.....most people cannot take the heat therefore they should get out of the kitchen......Mrs.Clinton, it seems she is very comfortable in the Kitchen....

    Clinton '08'

    January 13, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  10. David

    Obama just lost my vote. He says he is for a new kind of politics and that he wants to unite, not divide. Then why is he dividing his own party? First, his operatives are trying to embarrass Hillary in Michigan by urging people there to vote uncommitted. If he wanted to have a say in Michigan, he should have kept his name on the ballot. Now this attempt to play the race card over MLK. Just shows his rhetoric does not match the reality, and he is just a typical politician who will do anything to get elected. This is what he calls unity? This is new kind of politics? What a hypocrite.

    January 13, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  11. Jeff, Rugby ND


    January 13, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  12. kendall

    Will somebody please explain to me why Barak Obama cannot be criticized? You guys are ridiculuos and you have a huge double standard. So many of you post such negativity about Hilary Clinton here and then get your feathers ruffled when some criticizes your guy, Barak. Obama was flat in the polls for a long time. Then his backers told him to ramp it up against Hilary. He did and now he has more support. Yet any time Hilary or anyone even remotely connected to her mentions Obama's name, she gets lambasted. DOUBLE STANDARD. My mother once told me, "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen– that is you, Obama and all your supporters. Can't Obama take it? I hope he can because he'll get a lot worse on the world stage if he's elected president.

    January 13, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  13. Gil - California

    Bob Johnson, you are offensive to me. You'd be called a carpet bagger in other timies. Make your money off your people and keep you own people down just to keep your mistress happy. What has she promised you for your spew of hatred?

    January 13, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  14. Eldon, Camarillo CA

    This race baiting is really getting old. Either one of these candidates needs to just stand up and say that this garbage needs to stop. I could care less which candidate is seen as "black enough". They both need to talk about the issues affecting us, not this drivel.

    January 13, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  15. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    BET founder Bob Johnson I'm laughing at you just like Hillary is laughing at you. She's only taking advantage of this photo opportunity, the laughs on you Mr. Johnson.

    January 13, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  16. Bo A.

    If anyone should be accusing Obama of drug use it shouldn't be Bob Johnson – and there I thought BET was about helping the black community get back on its feet in spite of its past troubles. Hillary is doing worse to the democratic party by encouraging division. She's making sure that by the end of this primary, most of the people who finally got hope about a new kind of politics and came out to vote would have lost it again! What happened to her "finding a new voice" after NH? I'm very disappointed!

    January 13, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  17. Ronald Nfor, NY

    Response to Bimmer's comment:

    Either you are a plant from another campaign or you are just outright illogical and biased. In other blogs, you mentioned Obama's not changing his name to be an issue. Well in America we don't think that is an issue to determine who becomes president. As for Obama's past drug use, no mudsligging will stick because Obama has been forthright about it and if you think that did not exonerate him, too bad. This a campaign for the president of the United States, not for who sits at the right hand of God for dinner. Bush admitted he was an alcoholic and went on to win the White House. I don't think that has made more young Americans alcoholic.
    Once again, Mr. Bimmer, challenge a candidate's position on the issues and quit the personal attacks. This makes you look like a plant from the mudsligging machine.

    January 13, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  18. AJ, IL

    For all the Obama haters that want to go back 30+ years into his past to talk about his admitted drug abuse while in his teens is total B.S.! He was reflecting on his real life moments. He already admitted that it was a mistake and doesn't encourage anyone to do drugs. Bill Clinton was more famous for getting involved in the African-American community, not Hillary Clinton.

    The Hillary Clinton campaign has constantly changed their tactics when it comes to Obama. Now they have settled in on the following:
    1) Have Hillary bash Bush
    2) Have Hillary supporters (i.e. Bill Clinton, Bob Johnson, & others)
    personally bash Obama
    3) Have Hillary bash Obama when the Hillary supporters do it and are not
    called on it.

    January 13, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  19. ANDROLOMA, Commerce City, Colorado

    Will there ever be a time in the distant future when we can speak of drug use without the hysteria associated by negative stereotyping? America has paid dearly for alienating its domestic subcultures; well the nation should get what it pays for.

    January 13, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  20. ezzy

    So we are suppose to BELIEVE that Johnson's comments, "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," really means that Mr. Johnson was putting Barack down for doing community service and organizing? WOW, just wow! Please, let's all get some wits about us and stop allowing HRC to pull a Bill O'Reilly spin session on a us on a daily basis. The man said what he said and meant what he meant!

    Frankly, I'm tired of her and her campaign making stupid mistakes and blaming Barack's supporters and campaign for it. From this example to the countless others like the voting scandal currently going down in Nevada with the Caucus'. It's one thing after another coming from their camp and then they point the finger and say "but, but, it was really Barack that did it." This is a woman, and I say this as a woman, who wants to WIN at any cost. This has been her plan for years so please don't be fooled. Ask yourself, If she can't take responsibility for her war vote and she can't take responsibility for her supporters and campaign handlers words and actions, do you think she will be able to take appropriate responsibility for our country? If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's a $$%%$ duck!

    Good Grief..it's so sad. Can't we move forward together as a country into a different direction than Bush and Clinton? Please....join together against this polarizing woman. Stand up for HOPE and CHANGE and CLASS. This is so 90's and we need to do better than this. WE can do better than this....together!

    January 13, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  21. john

    I don't see why Obama's drug use as a teenager should affect his presidential campaign. Bill Clinton smoked marijuana, George W Bush is an ex-alcoholic and has used other drugs and they both made it in to the white house.

    January 13, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  22. Mekki

    Good call anonymous !!! i hope that Obama will win the nominee and having OBAMA/Edwards ticket ,,,that will be the best for the american people!!!
    WE CAN DO IT !!!

    January 13, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Bob johnson is the ultimate sellout. He sold bet to whites and now he's selling his support to whites, so whatever he has to say to or about black america is irrelevant.

    January 13, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  24. Chris, Orlando FL

    As a candidate for the most powerful job in the world, anything and everything is fair game. He should be scrutinized just like any other candidate, and if he was a druggie, then he should have to answer for it whenever, wherever, and by whomever the issue is raised. That was his decision to smoke pot, drink booze, and snort coke, and now he has to live with the consequences.

    January 13, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  25. Annie

    Hillary, give it up. You are going to divide the Democratic Party. Bill left it in disgrace with his conduct in the White House, and now you are trying to destroy a honorable Black man just so you can become President. If you must destroy someone to achieve that, what does that say about your character? I do not care of Obama is Black or White, which in reality, he is both, You are appealing to the older generation in this latest attack, but remember, we are old enough to have seen how low you and Bill will go.

    January 13, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
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