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. Bmax

    I agree with some of you . I will never vote for Hillary... Oh by the way Great timing.. With MLK DAY coming Next week and his actual Birthday On tuesday.....Hmm Black History month next month. I say we make History next month by voting for Obama and we make Hillary campign history by sending her packing... Hey Hill Good Night Now !!!!!!!

    January 13, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  2. kyle

    Are you kidding me....if he was talking about his organizing why wouldn't he come out and say it. This man is clearly lying...and right after coming from church....

    January 13, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  3. Bill in Montgomery, AL

    News flash: It's just been revealed that there was no Rosa Parks; that it was actually Hillary Clinton that started the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. That was because Hillary had just found out she was actually a decendent of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings and was thus considered Black. She just wanted the African American community to know that fact about her. She also participated in the Selma to Montgomery March and was beaten severely by the police.

    Another news flash: Hillary just revealed that many of her best friends are Black. And in the near future, she's going to divorce Billary so she can marry a Black and have Black children. She's also moving to the inter-city so she can be absorbed into the Africa-American culture.

    January 13, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  4. Mark

    Obama's campaign theme is to change washington by letting the power brokers, the corporate giants who dictate policies know that from now on , the people will be dictating to the government and the corporate giants not the other way round.

    And guess what? BET founder and prominent Hillary Clinton supporter Bob Johnson is a corporate power broker, so let us not see this as an attack on Barack but rather as a campaign by Bob to remain relevant in the power scheme, you have to understand they have given this thing to Clinton already.

    In order for us to be able to change the nation, in order for them not to derail our hope train, we must not allow them to divide us through race, like Obama said , this is not about Black or white, Hispanic or Asian, it is about us doing the right thing.


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

    I also stated that I would vote for any Dem., after watching Hillary campaign this last week, I will no longer do so.

    January 13, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  6. Ryan

    "...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..."

    You think he wouldn't say "community organizing" or "being a state senator?" The idea that anyone is misconstruing something just points out how sinister sounding and intentionally vague the statement was...which was obviously about drugs (which, at least, he admitted to...unlike some Clintons).

    Someone should ask Hillary if she smoked pot in the 60's. And ask her if she really thinks blacks, independents and those clamoring for something new...some change...are going to show up and vote for her in November after she destroyed a better candidate for the Democratic party with her scorched earth campaign reminiscent of a Karl Rove operation.

    January 13, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  7. Pat may

    I had planned to vote for Clinton, but the remarks made by her and her husband has made me an Obama supporter. It is time for the Clintons to retire and take the drama and divisiveness with them.

    January 13, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  8. mike, florida

    It dosn't look good for the Clinton people, when they start swift-boating other democrates. I realize that the republicans have proved that negative campaigning works, but please people we are democrats... can't we at least appear to respect each other. It is terrible when someone who takes the high road is at a disadvantage. Let's stick to the real issues an stay on task.

    January 13, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  9. Tereesa

    OK, Hillary has my vote..... she has a record of getting things done, she is for change, and Obama only talks. He has a record of change as well, drug user now not. Muslin and now is not. Agaisnt the war now then is, oh and now is not..
    What in the world is wrong with the folks in this country that at this time in our country that we need someone who can lead and not someone who might be able to lead..
    Go Hillary, you have my vote..
    Americans quit thinking about black, white, man or woman

    January 13, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  10. Marty, Orlando Fl



    OBAMA 08

    January 13, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  11. Jim Bremer

    Did this Obama fellow do drugs ? Yes he did.
    Did he abuse alcohol ? Yes he did.

    What's the biiger mistake ? Pointing out he did or actual doing booze and drugs ?

    How far can we allow this fairy-tale of Obama to go on ? Who will stand up and ask the questions ?


    January 13, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |


    January 13, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  13. Don

    Also, someone said that Hillary was speaking at a church. She was not. Obama was. Hillary was at Columbia College in Columbia, SC.

    January 13, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  14. Ada

    You silly African American, at least Obama admit doing it. What have you done to help improve the lives of your African American children. Other people are teaching their young ones to achieve things in the society. Obama is trying to achieve something reasonable. What have you done? I don't even know who you are.

    Yes, I'm African, and I support Obama 100%.

    January 13, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  15. BRO

    Anytime the Clinton's are involved in a campaign it gets ugly and divisive. I too will be voting Republican if Hillary is the nominee. This country does not need another four years of distortions from the Clintons. They never mean anythiny they say.

    January 13, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  16. amer

    Really that guy how said this and sitting near hillary is stupid man ,coz he may think he will gain some personal brofit when he insult obama,and he is wrong about this.

    January 13, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  17. Angela

    If the Obama's campaing are accusing the Clintons of racism(which is simply false) then it's only fair for them to bring up Obama's drug use ( which is sadly true).

    People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

    Did Obama REALLY think Clinton would sit idly by while he hurls THE MOST incendiary lies and accusations like racism at her without coming out swinging?
    Think again sir. You have stupidly underestimated the intelligence of our colorful America.

    If you try to play the race card you'll loose for sure.

    January 13, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  18. Jennifer, Savannah, GA

    I SINCERELY thought Robert Johnson was more intelligent than this. Apparently he feels the people of South Carolina will receive this message with open arms. What "bubble" surrounded him? Is he that young for him not to KNOW the struggles of South Carolina? No. I will not say anything negative about who he is supporting. However, for Mr Johnson to try to justify these sentiments are deplorable. It has absolutely nothing to do with race. It is the mere fact that Mr. Johnson is well aware of the "dirty politics" that is being played HERE-–and yet, he condones it. America you need to yourself--WHY?

    "The hardest thing in life is to learn which bridge to cross and which to burn".

    January 13, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  19. goldietaylor

    This sickens me. Watching BET sickens me. It's poison for our children. As for HRC, I watched MTP this morning and came away so angry that she would run a campaign like this. I don't think she realizes how much support she's lost and how (if she actually wins the nomination) that there are far too many people who won't vote for her.

    As a consequence, I wrote my first check to a presidential candidate. I gave it to Obama. One, I believe he is serious about making the kind of change this country needs. And two, I am convinced now more than ever that she is exactly (if not more so) the divisive person I thought she was. She has zero chance of bringing this country together.

    January 13, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  20. warren

    Did anyone really not expect the Clinton's to do this sort of thing. It is the quenticentual Clinton attack. Get a surrogate to make a critical statement. Allow it to be interpreted in a manner to be expected and then the surrogate makes some lame claim that he /she meant something else. While a very strong Democrat, it is one of things I dread–the Clinton 90's.

    January 13, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  21. Myron Honolulu Hawaii

    BO obama is offended by political comments concerning his abuse of alcohol, pot and coke but we are supposed to accept his drug use with open arms–why not? The US military uses drugs in combat, why not the Commander in Chief also? Hitler was a coke and speed drug freak; look what it did for the World. Are we any different?

    January 13, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  22. Common Sense

    I'm a Democrat who favored Biden for the presidency. I am now 100% behind Obama. Sad to say, I may have to vote for a Republican for the first time in my life if Hillary is on the ticket. I hope & pray I wont have to make that decision...

    January 13, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  23. kevin

    Looks like Clinton supporters are not going to vote for Obama if he is the nominee and vice versa. If John Mccain is the nominee on the republican side then get ready for another term by republicans. You are not going to change anyone's support for their respective candidate by posting negative comments about them. So lets talk about issues instead of fighting between us.

    January 13, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  24. Tyler

    Wow the media is highly critical of Clinton...never here anything about Obama except him being some sort of "rockstar."

    At least the Clinton's can say they did something for the African-American community...but what can Obama say he did for them?

    People think Obama will fix America and make change...but is there ANYTHING in his record that shows that he has made change? What has he changed? Has anyone heard of anything significant Obama has done in Congress?

    No. I think Obama supporters and the Obama camp doesnt want people to know what he has actually done...well if they told everyone what he has done, well that would be the shortest speach ever.

    He has a great message, and I think it is a great message. But he has nothing to show for it. How many times have we heard politicians make great promises, but do not do anything once they get in office?

    This Primary election will be a long, and grueling one. By the end of this primary, I think people will really know who the candidates are, and what they stand for.

    January 13, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  25. Jarratt Willis, Nacogdoches Texas

    hahaha wow

    You hear of all these positive endorsements for Barack Obama (the governors of Arizona and South Carolina, the Culinary Workers Union, the Nevada chapter of the Service Employees International Union and Oprah Winfrey just to name a few) . . .

    and yet the best Hillary Clinton can do is get an endorsement from Bob Johnson, the man who started BET . . . which, as we all know, has done great things for the image of the African American community. What a joke. How can Hillary Clinton even appear to make the claim that she is working in the best interests of the African American community, when she appears side by side with Bob Johnson, whose own commercial creation does nothing more than to further the self-perpetuating stereotypes that plague and corrupt people OF ALL COLORS (while financing itself of that perpetuation as well)

    Grow up Hillary, and get a grip on reality. No matter what you do, you're still a member of the old-school, old-money dependant establishment that dominates Washington. This is just something else that reinforces that image.

    January 13, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
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