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. Winfred Cook

    It is certainly disingenuous to say that there is no racism among their ranks. I know that their tactics are projections, and they do it very well. In fact, what ever they say the left is doing, you can be sure that that's exactly what they are doing. I've asked this question in some of my comments, and that is, what have the republican party done for its constituent besides leading the charge on homosexual and abortion rights? Unless you are rich or near rich, you are being suckered. And for the black republicans, who thinks that they are exempt from the racist slurs, you're not! The just take it behind closed doors. They do need you for tokens, "We have blacks in our ranks." Unfortunately, they've be all buffoons. Most people know this especially black people.

    April 13, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  2. J.R.

    Some of the most senior Dixie-crats (southern democrats) senators and representatives of the last few decades were reformed klansmen.

    That's one of the reasons many Southerners abandoned the democrats. They were sick of the corrupt "Boss Hogg" Dixie-crat politics that so typical in many southern states.

    April 13, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  3. Letmeout

    After watching Obama and Holder for the past five years I'm starting to become a racist.

    April 13, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  4. ShameShameWeKnowYourName

    does not matter the party affiliation white americans are racist as hell.

    April 13, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  5. MC

    And water is wet – the GOP are nothing but a 21st century KKK

    April 13, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  6. Just_realistic

    Throw out the race card every opportunity so that the real issues are pushed aside. It seems those that cry racism are trying to cover for their own views but casting it onto someone else.

    April 13, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  7. Jon

    The GOP used to be a party of principle. Now they're a party of opportunism for the wealthy. They have been very successful in playing the race card and the government is coming to get you in black ops helicopters BS that appeals to
    a cross section of poorly educated, non thinking knuckle dragging neanderthals and red neck white trash that that eat their crap up without question and cry more more.

    April 13, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  8. Robert

    Before everyone starts casting aspersions at everyone else, let me respectfully point out to everyone that, as I approach my seventieth birthday, I was born when there were still veterans of the Civil War alive, that Jim Crow laws were still being actively enforced, and that lynchings were still an effective means of keeping people in their place. As a child growing up in Massachusetts, I was exposed to my parents' racism, my friends' racism, and my nation's racism.

    This was a racist nation at its inception. It has continued to be a racist nation to the present day. This is not to say that we still lynch people. It is to say that it is usually no longer murderous, no longer enslaving, and no longer so cruel in its effects. It has greatly lessened in my lifetime and I expect that it will lessen even more after my passing.

    But this lessening is like adding water to dilute a stain. The dye gradually fades, but it is still there and will take a long, long, long time to fade to the point where it can no longer be detected.

    No one who was born more than a few months ago should deny it and if they do then they are perpetrating it.

    “If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.” ― Eldridge Cleaver.

    April 13, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. Anthony

    When other people point out what some in the Republican base are doing, Republicans cry race card.

    April 13, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  10. Terry

    There is a racist element in every imaginable social segment of the entire population. Nothing special here.

    April 13, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  11. thecryptowizard

    What a joke! The Democratic party historically has far more racism. This is simple "the other team is bad" rhetoric. While I don't doubt there are racist Republicans, I am 100% sure there are racist Democrats. Racism is unfortunate without regard to a single party. Shame on this congressman for causing unnecessary drama.

    April 13, 2014 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  12. Marian08

    I live in the south, but not all my life. My father was career military, and thankfully I grew up living all over the world. I've been exposed to all kinds of other cultures and ethnicities. I am very grateful for that. As most of the republican base is from the south, I can as-sure you that racism is alive and well here amongst the base. It's really disgusting to listen to the things that are said about our President. The ignorance about how our government works is mindboggling! What makes it so, is that these are ADULTS, who at their age don't know how our government works. Oh well, they get their news from Faux News, and believe it's the gospel truth. Sigh. It's so embarrassing.

    April 13, 2014 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  13. Steve O

    Your platform can't stand up to scrutiny? No problem, just call the other guy a racist.

    April 13, 2014 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  14. Craig

    If it flies like a duck,walks like a duck and quacks like a duck!!!! It's a duck!

    April 13, 2014 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  15. TSB8C

    Keep in mind that self proclaimed "black activists" like Jackson, Quanell and Sharpton are the biggest racists going. There are "racist elements" on both sides of the aisle. They do not a party make, but are simply elements within each party as a whole. I have attended many Tea Party meetings, some local groups organized and run by blacks. I have also attended Dem gatherings organized by religious white folks. Seeking out small factions and then painting an entire party as racists or any other "blanket term" is wrong and does not fit reality.

    April 13, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  16. BSH

    What about the bigots on the left? I never see much bigotry coming from the right, but there is a ton of intolerance coming out from the left, to a truly frightening degree.

    April 13, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  17. G_Edwards

    "the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism."

    BS. The party that inherently treats people differently based on their race is the Democrat party.


    April 13, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  18. Marquette

    Democrats need to stop playing the “race card” and start supporting sound government. How many of us would be allowed to operate with an overdrawn checking account and a deficit for a budget? NONE of us! I am a black American and have no problem with the fiscally conservative principles that will put our nation, government and economy back on solid ground. All able-bodied American and immigrants need to seek employment, taking what they can get, until they can find the job they really want. Entitlements make anyone lazy.

    April 13, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  19. davecu

    What tripe!
    A person can disagree with another's politics without the race even entering the conversation.
    Perhaps if Holder and Obama held ANYONE accountable with the IRS debacle, the gun debacle, the lack of enforcement regarding immigration, the working outside the constitution the unitarialy (sp) pass what HE wants, there wouldn't be need for ANY to play the race card.
    If the THE Attorney General gives the President a pass from investigation, there NEEDS to be a bi-partisan hearing and an independent investigation.
    Race is a diversion at best.

    April 13, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  20. jmoney

    In other news, the sun will rise again tomorrow and water is, as previously thought, wet.

    April 13, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  21. Gloria in NW

    This is like pointing out that most trees are green. The saddest part of President Obama's election has been having to learn that racism is a much bigger problem than I originally thought. I've always known America has a racist streak - we started in genocide and slavery, after all - but the nastiness that has come front and center since President Obama's election is stunning and sickening, writ larger than I thought possible. We are in big trouble.

    April 13, 2014 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  22. Bill

    What a surprise...

    April 13, 2014 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  23. Keith

    Of course they are racists, if anyone has paid attention to them screaming about the Mexican immigration problem they know that. It isn't about immigration or they might scream about the other 40% of illegal immigrants.

    April 13, 2014 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  24. eewrites

    The Republicans still haven't investigated the fact that we went to war when there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Tens of thousands were killed, our soldiers who came back were often maimed and traumatized, and their suicide rate is a public health crisis. And yet the GOP and Fox news are still demanding an investigation into Benghazi? It's really hard to figure out how else to explain this hypocritical double standard. Racism makes more sense then not.

    April 13, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  25. albert yester

    Democrats started the KKK. Democrats have racist elements in their base. If Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson aren't racists, I am a fighter pilot.- And I've never been in the Air Force. Why even make a stupid statement like "GOP has racist elements in it's base? The Democrats including the NAACP are race baiting all the time. How would it go over if there was a NAAWP?? I recently saw a "Black Shopping Network" on my television service. What if there was a White Shopping Network? Probably wouldn't go over very well. But the Race Baiters are given a free pass by all the Liberals. I for one am tired of crybaby race baiters trying to make people feel guilty because they were born white, or any other race for that matter.

    April 13, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
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