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. Lulu55

    Wow, the Democrats are clearly desperate and worried about November's elections!

    April 13, 2014 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  2. Wannetta

    "Two years ago, Holder became the first sitting Cabinet member to be sanctioned for contempt of Congress."
    IIs there anyone in the world that DOESN'T have contempt for our Congress? lol

    April 13, 2014 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  3. David Veal

    "and Obama snuggling with Al Sharpton is not racist?"

    So I guess you are saying George Bush snuggling with Rush Limbaugh is racist?

    April 13, 2014 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  4. Larry B.

    So this is news? It's been a well established fact as long as I've been alive.

    April 13, 2014 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  5. msyblade

    Ha! Cause only non whites receive assistance?! Because voter ID legislation affects WHO?! It affects the vote. The GOP may not be racist because they hate the culture, they hate the fact that they cannot get elected because they despise the poor. They are just far too disconnected to realize that 75% of the country is poor. Thank HEAVENS for democracy. As long as the GOP trashes women (50% of the vote), and minorities (another 25%) without realizing how ignorant, uncompromising, and intolerant they present themselves as to the entire public, we have nothing to fear from them. The tea party is the greatest thing to ever happen to liberalism. Here's to many more years of republicans whining impotently from their couch while equality loving democrats get elected. By the time they realize what they have become and do something to change it, it will be an entirely new party. If bigots were smart, we would be in a lot more danger of it being effective. Fortunately for the general public, the sheer ignorance of being intolerant and hateful, REQUIRES stupidity and self worship to even exist. There will never be a smart, loving, and inspiring BIGOT. The only people who do not understand this, are bigots. Sweet, sweet, long term victory. Enjoy your next female president gentlemen!

    April 13, 2014 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  6. Robert Bender

    President Obama shows extraordinary grace and dignity in the way he accepts the racial hatred and contempt expressed for his person and his presidency. He has insured the health care of 7,000,000 people. He has ended two wars kept us out of a third war in Syria. A man of peace who heals the sick, sounds a bit like Jesus. But that will only make the hate monger mob more angry. They know not what they do.

    April 13, 2014 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  7. Joshua

    When the conservatives criticize Eric Holder and Barack Obama, they are called racist, regardless of their skin color. But when an old white man is beaten by a group of black thugs nobody seems to care. This double standard is simply a convenient excuse used in attempt to draw attention away from their failures as leaders.

    April 13, 2014 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  8. radar8

    OF course there are outright racists in the GOP.

    Remember Obama's first State of The Union speech? A GOP congressman, Joe Wilson, yelled "you lied" while interrupting the President. This never happened before. It was a sign of total disrespect for Obama and the office of the President.

    THen there were the numerous attempts to prove that Obama wasn't American, that he was Kenyan. That hatred was furthered by sothern congressmen. Again, they never would have done that to a white president. THey truly believe that a black man cannot be president.

    Then there was the promise by the GOP Senate leader that the GOP would make Obama a one-term president by opposing everything Obama tried to do, regardless of whether it hurt the american people by doing so.

    Again, this was never done to a previous president.

    SO, yes, many in the GOP are racists. All? Of course not. Most? Probably not. But there are enough to make the GOP look like it harbors racists. It's similar to the way the Catholic Church harbors child molesters.

    April 13, 2014 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  9. Jim Beam

    "They want to know answers. And that's all we're trying to do,"

    ......instead of handling the needs and nation's business of tens of millions, they insist on these unending distractions; pass some infrastructure bills and get people back to work, among other low hanging fruit.

    April 13, 2014 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  10. Mark

    Texans have a right to be proud that despite the presence of southern racists here, it has also has been farsighted at times in contributing to improving equality through for example, Johnson's Civil Rights Bill. Why the state hasn't stood up and shown pride about its history in this important national civil debate is a source of continuing amazement and disappointment by progressives from within the state and nationally.

    April 13, 2014 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  11. w

    The republican party is racist period! Always has been. Always will be.
    If you do not vote democratic in the elections you are a traitor to african-americans and the country.
    Think about that!!!!

    April 13, 2014 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  12. woodin59

    If any one said to you that race isn't a big variable in Washington politics and nationwide, they're either lying or incredibly naive. The conversations in public and in particular behind closed doors is pathetic and a sad commentary on people in the 21 century.

    April 13, 2014 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  13. Captain Obvious

    DUH. Well, of course it does. And the sky is blue. Next issue.

    April 13, 2014 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  14. Craigo

    Of course Republicans have racist elements within the party. They can't really learn to behave, except when put on a leash, because for them it's in their heritage and DNA. So it's time Holder and Obama to stop playing nice liberals beat conservatives with as many tools as they can lay their hands on.

    The sad thing is that their conservative disorder is exploited by their corporate masters (the real leash-holders} to great effect.

    April 13, 2014 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  15. Your Obligatory Response

    Projecting, plain and simple. Democrats have historically been the party of racism in this country. They are also the party of blame, which makes for an odd combination of projected guilt and denial.

    April 13, 2014 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  16. furianxo

    lol @ racism... its the card everyone uses when they want the attention elsewhere. racism, and hate.... racism by the minorities, or democrats to pull the pressure from them.... hate for the gays when something dont go their way, or someone disagrees with them. Two words that are used as weapons now days.

    April 13, 2014 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  17. jay

    The race card has been played ladies and gentlemen

    April 13, 2014 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  18. Angry Asian

    Ok please... Tell that to California super-majority Democrat state senate that attempted to pass the most racist bill in history, known as SCA-5... The Democrats overwhelmingly supported quota limiting Asians that could attend college in CA simply because there was "too many of them" attending colleges right now...

    It took the Asian community and GOP who unanimously voted no to shut this thing down. Democrats in CA are more racists than the GOP, which tend to think based on "merit" versus preferential treatment based on race.

    April 13, 2014 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  19. furianxo

    nono of course its democrats that are the racists and trumping a war on women...
    after all its ALL red states passing christiant tlaiban edicts of hate towards women and ID"s required to vote to stop the rampant er non existent vote fraud."

    Anyone that doesn't believe in ID's for voters are either 1) frauds 2)a democrat that wants the losers vote 3) a mor0n

    April 13, 2014 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  20. schaz

    Typical Democratic party mud slinging. They claim that Republicans are raciest, anti-women,anti-gay, anti-anything that will get them votes. This is because the Democrats don't have anything to sell, except a negative message.

    The Democrats have a long history of this mud slinging. If you disagree with any of their policies your are a raciest, or something and you are expected to spend a substantial amount of time and money defending yourself against the charge. They have taken Joseph McCarthy's tactics and raised them to a fine art.

    If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, then calling people racists is the first refuge of a Democrat.

    April 13, 2014 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  21. G_Edwards

    When your positions and policies are failures, what's left to do? Accuse the opposition of being racists.



    April 13, 2014 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  22. disqus_m4RzRjSnrs

    Democrats hate white people, especially if they have a twenty dollar bill in their wallet. Racism encompasses a wide territory. Relegating it to one party is pathetic.

    April 13, 2014 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  23. blakenaustin

    Holder seems to forget a few important facts:
    1) Lincoln, a Republican freed the slaves in 1863.
    2) A larger percentages of Republicans that Democrats voted for the Civil Rights legilation of 1964
    3) He and Obama have played the race card for too frequently and in far too many situations. They have lost all credibility in the blame game.
    Holder needs to resign. Too many lies. Too little regard for the constitution and the rule of law. Too many scandals. If you are lucky, you won't end up in a federal prison when your day of accountability finally comes.

    April 13, 2014 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  24. The Possum

    Racism, at its root, is the belief in the 17th-century pseudoscientific notion of "race".

    April 13, 2014 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  25. Joe NYer

    What is this race obsession liberals have? Are we not ALL Americans? You have to EARN our respect if you decide to assimilate here from another country-just as WE would if the show were on the other foot.

    April 13, 2014 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
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