April 13th, 2014
01:07 PM ET
9 years ago

GOP base includes racist 'elements,' congressman charges

(CNN) – Over 50 years after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, the issue of race is back in the political headlines, after comments from Attorney General Eric Holder and events marking the anniversary of the law’s passage renewed the dialogue over race relations in the 21st century.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-New York, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that "not all" of his GOP colleagues are racist but "the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism."

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Israel’s comments came in response to a question from CNN's Candy Crowley about Holder’s remarks at a civil rights event last week. During a New York speech, Holder suggested congressional Republicans have treated him and President Barack Obama, as African-Americans, differently from others who have held their positions.

Later, responding to a question about Holder’s remarks, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that House Republicans were blocking action on immigration reform because of racial issues.

"I think race has something to do with the fact that they're not bringing up an immigration bill. I've heard them say to the Irish, if it were just you, this would be easy," the California Democrat said, referring to GOP lawmakers, during her weekly press conference last week.

Rep. Greg Walden, also appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," called Pelosi's comments "both wrong and unfortunate."

In Holder's speech to a progressive group, he strayed from prepared remarks to criticize the way he was treated by Congress, specifically in contentious House Judiciary Committee hearings where he sparred with Republican lawmakers over whether he was being sufficiently responsive to lawmakers’ requests in an ongoing federal gun probe.

Two years ago, Holder became the first sitting Cabinet member to be sanctioned for contempt of Congress. Since then, tensions between the nation's top law enforcement officer and House Republicans have flared over a number of issues.

"What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?" Holder asked at the event last week.

When asked about the attorney general’s comments, House Speaker John Boehner said last week, "There's no issue of race here." He insisted the Obama administration has not been forthcoming in responding to GOP questions on a number of ongoing investigations.

Walden reiterated that sentiment Sunday, arguing "Americans just want to know the truth" about controversies like the IRS alleged targeting of conservative groups and the 2011 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

"They want to know answers. And that's all we're trying to do," he said on CNN about Republican efforts pressing Holder for information.

In his speech last week, Holder did not specifically point to racism as the basis of his treatment by Congress, but he’s also not shied away from talking directly about the issue of race in the past. Holder recently stood by comments he made in 2009 that the United States is a “nation of cowards” on racial issues.

The White House remained relatively quiet about race during Obama’s first term. In the last year, however, the President has spoken out more on race and inequality.

Most recently, Obama praised former President Lyndon Johnson and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act at the law’s 50th anniversary event last week in Austin, Texas.

The landmark measure, signed in 1964, made it illegal to discriminate based on race, outlawing for the first time segregation at lunch counters, on buses, and in other public spots. Obama lauded Johnson's push to end legal segregation as a factor in his own ascension to the White House.

CNN's Deirdre Walsh and Evan Perez contributed to this report.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

soundoff (1,077 Responses)
  1. Democrat Party Race Baiting: Destroying This Country, Damaging Race Relations

    When you have an 8 year record of failure, these are the types of despicable tactics the Democrats resort to in order to cling to their jobs and control of government. People all over this country should REJECT this RACE BASED WARFARE in elections. It appears the Democrat Party, which has a very long history of racism, is at it again. REJECT THEM AMERICA.

    April 13, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  2. Lizzie

    If AG Holder would do his job, and not pick and choose, no one would have a problem. But now it's you don't agree with me you're a racist, terrorist and un-American.
    As history shows most DEMOCRATS where against the law, but now they like to rewrite history and call themselves champions of the civil rights movement.

    April 13, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  3. Miami Mike

    Looks like the Dems have no platform to run on other than play the race card.

    If the economy is going so well, why do we have the highest welfare participation rate in history?

    If unemployment is going so well (without cooked numbers), why the extension of unemployment benefits?

    Isn't an "undocumented" immigrant in the country illegally in the first place?

    April 13, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  4. God MAY NOT be a Liberal, but He IS a Democrat

    The Republican Party`s base is racist; and in other news today . . . water is wet and the sky is blue.
    Everyone know this and any fair and mentally balanced person can see that Obama and Holder [both graduates of Ivy league Columbia] have been treated with disrespect that can only be explained by racism. However, until the politicians calling out the racism are named Boehner, Ryan, Cantor, Jindal, Rubio, Ayotte, Christie, Walker, Huckabee or MCConnwll [instead of Reid, Isreal or Pelosi] the GOP will not attract black, brown, yellow or [thinking] white people to vote for them and they WILL NOT win national election or in districts which are not gerrymandered. Candy Crowley needs to ask the Republican politicians, "How can you do/say X and yet claim to support Y"? That would mean some accountability.

    April 13, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  5. 2_indy1600

    Too bad we see racism in all colors and parties. Self-righteousness will not win the day.

    April 13, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  6. some guy

    well now, isn't this the pot calling the kettle.....well, you know...

    April 13, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  7. The Real Tom Paine

    Perhaps not racism, but certainly fear permeates the GOP base. They fear change, they fear the other, they fear something that does not resemble the world they grew up in. No wonder the GOP has its staunchest supporters among those who are either old, or who are raised with or have embraced an apocalyptic view of the world. Racism is just the most virulent strain of this problem, and it does exist among some of the base. The problem is that its becoming more acceptable to do things and say things that push that envelope: certainly things like Stephen Colbert taking over for David Letterman do not mean an attack on our values: if we are so self -absorbed that we cannot recognize the need for sarcasm and satire to lighten our mood, then we are really in trouble.

    April 13, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  8. Tampa Tim

    You would think racists would take pride in being racist.

    April 13, 2014 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  9. jerome

    Who better to talk about racism other than Holder, one of this administration's most racist?

    April 13, 2014 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  10. Chris-E...al

    Republicans are not racist . We got a black president and a black A.G they were many republicans crossed over over and voted for 0bama it just that failures come in all colors white and black . It seems ever good ideal 0bama comes up with only will have about a four year life span and then doom and for his foreign policy get ready for doom . But by golly it sure is nice now . Good times . Enjoy .

    April 13, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. rs

    "Racist elements" !? Good Lord- I'd call the GOP's Birther shock troops mush worse than that. The truly funny thing is if the GOP is to ever find itself voters from minorities (and women), not only of they need to walk away from the birthers and discredit their activity (and apologize for ever encouraging their nonsense and "investigations" in Hawaii), but they really need to change their legislative tunes.

    No more trying to take voting rights away from minorities; no more trying to disenfranchise the voting rights of college students; they have to stop demonizing immigrants (illegal or otherwise); no more anti-Gay, pro-discrimination laws. Lastly the GOP simply has to stop their wicked and sick fascination with the female reproductive system. THAT is between a doctor and her patient- not for the tomfoolery of bonehead legislators and their fundamentalist supporters.

    Do that GOP, and you might legitimately be contenders again.

    April 13, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  12. Smarterrrest Human

    That's OBVIOUS.

    April 13, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  13. Bill Davis

    A white man would have been fired a long Tim ago, race card is being played

    April 13, 2014 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. j

    Typical Democrat. If you're losing the idealogical war, call your opponent a racist.

    I can't wait for the November mid term.

    April 13, 2014 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  15. Rick McDaniel

    The only racists left in America, are actually Democrats.......they are racists against the white community in America, and they use the race card to further their efforts of silencing Americans who still believe in the principles and ideals of our founding fathers.

    Democrats are truly the subversives in America, and a much greater threat to our country than Russia, or Iran. They are threatening us from within.

    April 13, 2014 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  16. matt

    This racism claim from the democrats is nothing more than blame and slander tacticing is to hide thier completely failing policies in every policy they try and all the curruption surrounding them. Attacking good people that care to solve the problems for Americans. But since they have failed they can only attack with lies and slander to encite. No different than the sick narcissist half of a divorce. They simply care about themselves and thier cause only! No regard for what is true and real or the damage they cause to all they lie too.

    April 13, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  17. Chance Novak

    More demagoguery. If you can't defend your issue, enact character assassination on your opponent "pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it"

    From the Beaufort Observor:

    1. Healthcare – Control Healthcare and you control the people.

    2. Poverty – Increase the Poverty level as high as possible, poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if you are providing everything for them to live.

    3. Debt- Increase the debt to an unsustainable level that way you are able to increase taxes and this will produce more Poverty.

    4. Gun Control- Remove the ability to defend their self from the Government, that way you are able to create a Police State.

    5. Welfare- Take control of every aspect of their life's (Food, Housing, and Income).

    6. Education- Take control of what the people read and listen too – take control of what the children learn in school.

    7. Religions- Remove the belief in the God in Government and schools.

    8. Class Warfare- Divide the people in the wealthy and the poor, this will cause more discontent and it will be easier to take (Tax) the wealthy with the support of the poor.

    Does any of this sound like what is happening to the United States?

    April 13, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  18. Amazed2

    You think? Maybe kind of like the sun possibly has some warm areas? Water is possibly wet? Duh.... No racism no GOP. It's that simple.

    April 13, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  19. killerofthesun

    Tell us something we never knew before.

    April 13, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  20. musician

    Not all GOP/Tea Party people are racist. But if you were a racist, you would probably end up affiliated with one or the other of those two groups. I've personally heard many blatantly racist statements made by said group members. Some of them make no pretense whatever of being tolerant. Some are extremely angry, white power fanatics, heavily armed and ready to start their long-desired race war. Others are racists and don't even know it.

    April 13, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  21. Vence

    The dirty secret of republicans is not a secret anymore!

    April 13, 2014 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  22. Randyk

    The elephant in the room. The GOP has relied on the votes of racists since the polarity of the parties in this regard switched during the Civil Rights era. Any politics insider knows it but no one is supposed to explicitly talk about it.

    April 13, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  23. John

    I am tired with this use of the race card when conservatives dare challenge a Black Liberal. Maybe we need to only have Black Conservatives like Tim Scott, Allen West and in Virginia, EW Jackson. I was the EW Jackson Newport News coordinator and also the Republican Nominee for Delegate in a RACIALLY SEGREGATED BLACK district, and I spoke to voters of all ethnicities and they all treated me quite well. It is these elected official that throw the race card and try to divide Americans.

    April 13, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  24. Bryan

    Yet the latest example of Democrats' strategy: when all else fails, play the race card. Unfortunate so many in my media fall for it time and time and time again.

    April 13, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  25. ShawnDH

    GOP racist? Well duh.

    April 13, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
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