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. Big_D

    The GOP aren't racist on purpose, they just don't understand that corporate welfare is worse than welfare for the poor. What they can't see is amazing. They see the actions and stand silent but they don't blame themselves for what "some elements" of the party are doing to the GOP, they just let it happen.

    April 13, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  2. Matt

    Carol Jacobson.....your post is pathetically incorrect...first off the KKK , and most discrimination laws were created and fought for by the democratic party...and fought those laws hand and foot to keep them in action....Republicans dont "make" laws to to control the vote...they simply want voting laws enforced and protected...ID is required for every aspect of life , asking fr ID to prove you re eligible to vote in USA is not racist.....they it was the republican party who fought for womens rights to vote, they rent anti women...they are anti baby slaughter...BIG DIFFERENCE.....and n your money issue, if you took the time to research you will find that most of the richest in America are and vote Democrat,,,,,for heavens sake people stop getting your info from news staions and talking heads , this country hs enough ignorance without it beig fed by nonsense like this

    April 13, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  3. RealityCheck

    Don't forget people, if you call out racism, that makes you a racist.

    April 13, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  4. Simplefaith

    I believe racism is a factor and I am not a person of color. It is very obvious in the manner in which people address the President of the United States. Respect is sometimes lacking in regards of speaking to the President and about the President. I have seen other white presidents a lot worse than President Obama get better treatment. President Obama is less affected by the slurs and disrespectful comments because in Hawaii, everyone is so different that being black is just another color. There is brown, yellow, tan, red white etc. I am five different races. To President Obama, in his youth was never made to feel less than he is. Therefore you have a confident president. The Republican hopefuls are a sorry lot of contestants. Chris Christie; not telling the truth about the gridlock controversy. Ted Cruz causing a major Government shutdown and his green eggs and ham stunt. Jeb Bush with family baggage which would make it difficult to get nominated. People will not forget his brother's involvement with Iraq that put many lives on the line for nothing. Rand Paul; idealogy too extreme for everyday Americans. Rubio; don't know where his backbone is. Perry; past his prime. Huckabee; who is this guy. The Republicans have to show compassion, respect and honesty to the Americans they want to support before they have a chance in the White House again.

    April 13, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  5. Mark

    That's a safe statement to make, since all of American society still has racist elements in it. You could just as easily, and genericaly, say the Democratic Party has racist elements in it, or the Libertarian Party, or even the Socialist or Greens.

    April 13, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  6. Movingforward

    It is clear GOP has element that are bigoted against woman and minorities, and impoverished persons. This is part of the alignment with big business that seeks a resource of a repressed working class to enable profit maximization. GOP is in fact the party of the rich and large conglomerates that seek profits at all costs. They regard people as a resource like coal or oil. But the GOP are naïve. As business automates and outsources their installed base of voters that benefit from their pro-business mentality shrinks. As they exploit people and natural resources they alienate the voters necessary to put them in office. It is accelerating every day. As the economic opportunity moves to foreign shores the situation only gets worse. Its a death spiral. Were witnessing the death of the republican party, for too long they have been the puppet of big business. They have lost sight of the needs of the American people and wrongly assumed that multinationals organizations give a dam about American workers. While efforts to empower companies by extending them rights typically only afforded to people will delay the negative impact – it will not stop it. Sure corporations can now buy ads and marketers to bombard the people via media about the virtues of their conservative ideology – but in the end its about a paycheck. Can I feed my family. republicans are out of touch, their representatives generally are not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and the public is becoming increasingly smart about the reality of their priorities. Bye bye GOP – I for one will not miss your one bit.

    April 13, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  7. Paul Cooper

    The Democrats are and have always been the party of Jim Crow and the Klan. If the GOP had not pushed for passage of the Civil Rights Act, Robert Byrd would have killed it instead of simply filibustering it.

    Both parties have racism in their past and both parties have racists in their ranks. If this dim wit from New York wants to focus on it, he should start with his own caucus to prove his sincerity.

    April 13, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  8. Larry Singleton

    Racism can be found in every section of society. Since politicians are merely a subsection of that society, there will be racists. And of course anyone with a brain knows that there are racists in the Democratic side too.

    April 13, 2014 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  9. E.Holder

    Anyone who disagrees with me is a racist.

    April 13, 2014 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  10. Michael

    utterly shocking, racist elements in the GOP!! Next your going to tell me the earth is not the center of the universe .

    April 13, 2014 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  11. plantseeds

    when you have other argument and you have no standing, you pull the race card. thanks for coming Eric Holder, parting gifts are by the door.

    April 13, 2014 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  12. Randy, San Francisco

    Just look at the delegate audience in the 2008 National Republican Nomination Convention...it was sea of white faces except for a few token minorities. Strategic placement of a few minorities and women on stage for TV consumption could not hide the lack of minorities participation in the GOP. A picture says a thousand words.

    April 13, 2014 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  13. Kevin

    The Democrats are always the first to claim racism, they can't speak to the issues and the dummy's that vote for them buy into it because of their ignorance. Look at their Base. Show me a well informed Democrat I dare you!

    April 13, 2014 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  14. OldSchool

    He's entirely correct. There is a measurable percentage of opposition from the right that is rooted solely in the fact that they don't like the fact that there is a black president. Those of us who don't have to disguise our true motivations behind veiled rhetoric and dog whistles can see it as clear as day...

    April 13, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  15. Rit

    This is outrageous. When did we become a nation of vicous mudslingers? It's as if we have regressed to the days of witch trilals... Given the comments on this ticker item, for folks that don't believe as the good liberal folks believe, it won't be long before those "evil racist" Republican people will be mandated to wear the evil "R" on their shirt pockets. Evidently, we have become a very sick nation of hatefilled "good" people.

    April 13, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  16. don in albuquerque

    According to these posts there is not a racist on either side. Hummmmm, I wonder who was recently waving a flag in front of White House trying to scare the black people inside. Must have been Martians. Couldn't have been one of our American parties.

    April 13, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  17. David

    Holder, a criminal and disgrace to the legal profession. Just play the race card to avoid any responsibility.

    April 13, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  18. gwats1957

    Of course, not ALL Republicans are racists, but their party is dominated by these knuckle-dragging, Obama- hating, 'nut-jobs', who are so intent on opposing the President, that they forget to do the job they were elected to do, and that was to go to Washington, and try to get a few laws passed that would make their Constituent's lives a little easier. Is a lot of the current situation the result of racist attitudes toward those who not are affluent, and white-skinned? Sure it is, but that's no reason to not try, and 'play nice'......

    April 13, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  19. Ruppert Jenkins

    Guess what, Mr. Israel? The Democrat base also has elements that are animated by racism.

    April 13, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  20. Waterboard

    Why is this newsworthy anyone with an ounce of cognitive function already knows the GOP is a racist organization.

    April 13, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  21. Tim

    Of course there are racist elements in the GOP just like there are racist elements in the Democratic party. So what. This effort to portray one party as having all the racists is ridiculous.

    April 13, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  22. FrankinSD

    Republican former Secretary of State Colin Powell says that the GOP is "full of racists" who oppose President Obama "because of the color of his skin" rather than his performance in office. I guess that the Secretary would be in a position to know.

    April 13, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  23. Lee

    I guess all the liberal's discussion about Condoleezza Rice doesn't have any racist issues. I guess they can question somebody and belittle a person of color and isn't racist, but a conservative can't. Wow, never knew that.

    April 13, 2014 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  24. TB

    GOP racists? this is a surprise to anyone?

    April 13, 2014 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  25. FrankinSD

    For those attempting the weak deflection tactic of accusing the Democratic Party of being racist, let me pose this question: Can you name a liberal white supremicist organization?

    April 13, 2014 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
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