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. AJ - Montpelier

    "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"

    Why is this offensive? Both Obama and his supporters ahve made repeated attacks bout Clinton an her character. When the tables are turnes and someone brings up legitimate concerns about Obama, both he and his supports squal lick scalded cats. Hey folks – OBAMA IS NOT OFF LIMITS. He has issues which some find troubling. I am not a supporter of Obama, but dont find his past drug use particullarly troubling. But if others do, they certainly have the right and obligation to do so.

    Stop behaving as if your candidate is some kind of diety that cannot be questioned or spoken out against. Especially when Obama and his supporters never shy away from voicing thier disdain for the other candidates. Turnabout is fair play. This is a campaign, this get nasty. Obama knows, hes gotten his share of nasty digs at the expense of his opponents. Obama is not running for some noble motive. He's on a quest for power and will do and say anything to get it.

    January 13, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  2. Cherish

    How pathetic.

    January 13, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  3. Porteur

    Bob Johnson should kep quite be cause he has sold out. He should be trying to
    get intellegent things to view on BET. Dumb jokes, people are tire of. Bill C.
    should try to get him mess togather. Once I had respect for the two however, they are trying to seize all power. Eight years are enough for both Clinton and Bush

    January 13, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  4. Ken Garing

    This makes me sick! Hillary is WORSE than Bush! How can anyone claiming to be a democrat support her?

    January 13, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  5. Ready for a Uniter

    Hillary says she took 35 years to find her voice, but it sounds like the same old Clinton mud slinging to me.

    January 13, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  6. Zac

    She's scared.

    January 13, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  7. James

    I for one will not vote for Hillary in the primary or general election. If Obama gets the nomination I will vote for him. Should we do an unscientific poll? Who will stay home or vote Republican if Hillary gets the nomination?

    January 13, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  8. adultry and lies

    Does drug use in someone's PAST trump ADULTRY AND LIES IN A CURRENT PRESIDENT?

    January 13, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  9. Wayne

    Ah! Of course, another surrogate pouncing Obama. Nothing new there.

    It's just incredibly disingenuous that the so called "the first-black president" is offending us.

    January 13, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  10. carol

    And that is an honor to sit next to white person instead of black person. You looser, no BET in my house here on!

    January 13, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  11. Lynn

    I hate the type of no-holds-barred campaign the Clintons are running. This is no different from the worst campaigns Bush and Rove have run. The sad thing is that it will most likely work, and Hillary will win the Dem nomination. I don't see a way Obama can climb out of this muck because they're slinging so much mud that there isn't time for anyone to correct all the ccrap they're throwing at him. And of course if Edwards gets involved, he and Obama will be accused (again) of ganging up on the poor female candidate.

    I'm glad to see that others have grown sick of the game as I have. If Obama or Edwards doesn't win the nomination, then for the first time in my life I won't be voting for a Democrat in the presidential election. Maybe the Clintons think they can win at all costs. Hopefully, the most they'll do is win the battle but lose the war. It will be a sad day if Hillary becomes president after what she and Bill are pulling now.

    I for one can't wait until the day the Clintons exit the political stage.

    January 13, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  12. Tyler

    Im telling you, if people looked at Obama's record, of course it looks clean. He hasnt voted on hardly anything? I'd rather vote for someone that I know what im getting with them, than someone who we dont know what were getting from him.

    All this controversy with her MLK is being blown out of proportion by Obama-lovers to slam her down. Obama supporters seem to be slamming her more than what people say she is slamming Obama.

    January 13, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  13. Ann


    January 13, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  14. Richard

    It will be sad to see people rewarding this woman with all the things she has done. I feel bad for Americans to be fooled this way. I hope Micheal Bloomberg comes in if Hillary get to be the nominee.......

    January 13, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  15. pamlobsp

    Do you actually think that the republican won't bring that up if he wins the nomination? This guy has not been vetted and you in the media keep giving him a pass. Does he "Hope" that the Republicans have "Changed"???

    January 13, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  16. Al, Los Angeles, CA

    Hillary is starting to seem desperate.

    Does anybody believe Bill didn't inhale?

    Same way he didn't have sex with that woman.

    At least Obama admitted it.

    Bush was into coke & booze.

    Who cares?

    All of them are such strong people now.

    If Johnson has to sling mud like that, he must be afraid his investment in Hillary is going to be wasted.

    January 13, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  17. Raj Mungol, McDonough, GA

    Obama told the truth to the world about his past drug use when will Hillary Clinton tell the world about hers. Her husband lied about his own!

    January 13, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  18. Estevan

    BET has probably done more to destroy the image of blacks in America than anything else.

    January 13, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  19. Lynn

    Martha, re: your comments about Hillary's reasons for staying with Bill. I think it's now quite clear that her ambition overruled her judgment. She knew sticking with him would help her wind up in the Senate, and possibly the White House. If she'd left, she wouldn't be able to rely on his cronies to support her own candidacy, then where would she be?

    January 13, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  20. Angela

    The Obama's have sunk to a new low by raising racism.

    That's all they got left. When you run out of things to say about yourself, you attack your opponents with lies. Oldest trick in the book. You now have put yourself in the breed of politicians that will do and say anything just to get elected. Hey, why don't you call Karl Rove I bet you'd just love him.
    Don't play on White Guilt and Black Wounds to cheat your way into the White House.
    And it makes you look like a manipulative, heartless and dirty politician with NO CHANGE at all on your agenda. Just the Same Ole Crap..
    I m disgusted with you!

    January 13, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  21. GoldCanyonGal

    Bob Johnson said what needed to be said by Democrats, before the Republicans get around to it...and they will get to it!

    January 13, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  22. Tyler

    Why is it that when Obama is "attacked' people come rushing to his side and slamming Clinton. Is Obama some sort of untouchable figure that cant be questioned? Im willing to be most people wont answer this question.

    When Obama's campaign is questioned about his voting record (more like a not-voting record) they completely blow the question off and make some punny remark unstead of answering the questions. They need to learn to answer the tough questions, not just the easy ones.

    January 13, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  23. Cindy St. Louis

    Hilary has learned her lessons well from Karl Rove- ENOUGH ALREADY

    OBAMA 08!

    January 13, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  24. Vincent

    She's two-faced. That's what she is. One day, she's a sensitive woman who's
    "found her voice", the next day, she's back to mud-slinging and making racial remarks (and now, this ad hominem drug attack.) She's digging her own grave; she also gave up the one time she could play for a sympathy vote. Controversy follows her no matter where she goes while Obama still remains clean.

    January 13, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  25. proudamericancitizen, Florida

    I don't know how many people actually read these comments, but I would like to voice my opinion about this back and forth between the Clinton and Obama campaigns. First, Obama is no saint. Neither of us are. The only difference is that Obama is holding himself out to the public, so criticism should be expected, just like the other campaigns are being criticized. With that being said, I RESPECT Obama for not stooping to the level that Hillary and Bill have stooped to. I am apalled that Hillary can say that Obama distorted her remarks when she clearly said that MLK needed President Lyndon B. Johnson to get civil rights legislation passed. In other words, hoping and dreaming is not enough. She clearly said that. Yet, she accuses Obama of distorting words that she said!! I never heard Obama say that he was MLK or Kennedy.

    Obama really comes across as genuine, honest and seems to really want to unite the country and do what is best for ALL AMERICANS. Hillary is a tough and aggressive woman, but she is ruthless and I think Hillary will just perpetuate divisiveness in this country. I think there's a reason why her attempt at passing Universal Healthcare legislation failed; she can't get Republicans or Democrats to come together!!

    Nevertheless, I was going to vote for Hillary if Obama didn't win the nomination, but I really think Hillary will stop at nothing to tear her opponents apart. For that reason, Hillary has lost any chance of winning my vote with her finger-pointing, divisive style of politics that this country doesn't need right now. This country needs a UNITER not a DIVIDER. I'm not saying I'm definitely voting for Obama, but I won't be voting for Clinton. I am a registered Democrat, but I will switch party lines if neither Obama or Edwards gets the democratic nomination.

    I am just shocked with the way Hillary has run her campaign as of late. Let's Unite America!!!

    January 13, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
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