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. Vijay

    Ever since he got elected in Nov 2008 (Obama) Rush and his colleagues have started spouting racism and it is continue till today. There are no respect from GOP towards president. I don't know when it will stop.

    April 13, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  2. The don

    Same sorry excuses for failures.....play the victim and push the conversation in a different direction.

    April 13, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  3. jerry9997

    CNN should label themselves the Black Channel and news media. Every day there are at least 3 or more alleged race stories they dig up (like the way black army women braid their hair being racist last week and about 10 different shows "being black in America"). The News network has completely lost its way and fallen apart since Turner sold it and now is just desperate for ratings and will broadcast anything or print anything to get their audience back. They are a pathetic shell of thier former leader in 24 hour news. Now its leader is obscure, politically analyzed left wing) news that is just boring. It will probably be gone and forgotten, thank goodness, in a few years.
    And Holder is just a joke, spends all his time finding new ways to stop prosecuting criminals and letting drug dealers and users out of jail.

    April 13, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  4. Gopher

    GOP has racist elements? Wow. Thats a new revelation!

    April 13, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  5. tyjtyj

    A republican is a racist....nooo. That can't be. Some southerners are still stuck in the civil war era. The fact that you think you would be educated and see that race should not be an issue, but some people will never change. Race is like the church having all that power in the 1500's where they could do anything by using the bible.

    April 13, 2014 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  6. WR

    What Holder is upset about is the Supreme Court starting to decide that preferences based on race is in fact racist.

    The only ones who still think that making a critical decision about someones life based solely on race is not racist are the liberals. The highest court in the land was split by liberals vs conservatives on this issue.

    If the shoe was on the other legal foot, liberals would certainly demand justice by being treated the same under the law.
    But as long as the only victims are White Americans, then Democrats have no problems with an injustice.

    The court looked at preferences and had to ask itself, if the ONLY reason a person did not get hired or promoted was because of their race, should that be a violation of their rights. Clearly, they split, with liberals saying no and conservatives saying yes.

    Maybe the true racist are the ones who are shouting that the other guy is a racist.

    Maybe one day we will, as a nation make our decisions based not on race but on merit and ability. May the best man/woman win. I know, that scares the heck out of liberals.

    April 13, 2014 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  7. Greg

    Everyone is so surprised? What he said was factual. The outrage is he said it out loud.

    April 13, 2014 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  8. Beanneu

    So tired of the Democrats using the race card every time they start loosing an argument.it would be so nice to have an adult in the room.

    April 13, 2014 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  9. The Real Tom Paine

    I always remember a quote from Robert Shelton, the head of one of the Klan organizations said about Reagan and the GOP platform of 1980, that it was "...a platform a klansman could be proud of." Since the GOP has always tried to recreate that magic, it only follows that they must be comfortable, on some level, with the message the wackadoodle Right got out of the conservative wing of the GOP, that racism would be tolerated and even encouraged, if it got them votes. Now that whites are going to become a minority within the country for the first time, we are seeing all sorts of efforts, attitudes and rationalizations to justify voter suppression, including fabricating the myth of widespread voter fraud. Its the failure of the decent people in the GOP to denounce and discredit these efforts that causes the abysmal minority turnout for the GOP, and no number of token candidates who ignore their own party's efforts to deny the franchise to communities of color can alter that fact.

    April 13, 2014 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  10. Lee

    Democrats once again shamelessly branding Republican's as a bunch of rich old white racist men who hate minorities, women, and children. Just keep on promising every group more money and benefits until you bankrupt our country, and then just blame it on the evil "1%".

    April 13, 2014 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  11. hfranqui

    And now, completely disingenuously or vested in full ignorance and hate, commenters will start writing: A) that the democrats are the real racists; B) that non-Whites are the real racists C)that whites are a disenfranchised minority, D) a bunch of other non sense from the right wing extremely racist, homophobic, misogynist circus which is Faux News and the radio clowns. Meanwhile everybody else knows the truth.

    April 13, 2014 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  12. The Cappy

    >90% of the race cards are played by the left.

    April 13, 2014 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  13. whatever

    Democrats always pull the race card when someone doesn't agree with them. Little immature infantile children run the democratic party now.

    April 13, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  14. LanternJack72

    Wow to some of the extremist vomit coming out of the baggers and GOPers on here. Constantly bringing up the DISTANT past to find some way to call the Democrats of TODAY racists. It's ridiculous. The entire GOP, weak in values, strategy and integrity, has clearly gone off the cliff in full reversal of what they were during the Civil War. The GOP IS FULL ON Southern Democratic values in action every single time they open their mouths TODAY. Anyone denying is lying.

    April 13, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  15. Steve Allard

    You republicans who keep saying "Me racist? Whatever gave you that idea?" need to change your tune. I've heard people in your own group lecturing you on the need to lighten up and be more attractive to minorities. By yelling that you're not bigoted and racist isn't going to win any independents, which you need to win most elections. Act indignant, turn your back on all but the rich or white, and you slowly will fade into a distant memory. I read that the average age of Fox News viewers is around 65. In a decade you will lose a significant number of your voters to the local cemetery. Play smart or face extinction.

    April 13, 2014 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  16. Kapi

    In other news...water is wet.

    April 13, 2014 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  17. what1ever

    Yeah, Republicans are motivated by race. YA' THINK?!

    April 13, 2014 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  18. jay howard

    The GOP could change its name to KKK and no one would notice the difference. Is it any surprise the white supremacists are all Republican?

    April 13, 2014 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  19. gw

    Since the Civil Rights Act was passed in the mid-60s the Republican party turned overtly racist.Many Democrats in the South joined Republicans because of their disgust with not just desegregation but actual integration. With the election of Obama, they "elements" who are racists have come out in the open.

    April 13, 2014 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  20. Jason

    This coming from the same guy who decided to press hate crime charges against the first white guy who did the knock out game on a black man after so many black on white instances of it. I'm curious why he didn't press hate crime charges on Lakim Faust after he decided to shoot as many white people as he could in a Walmart parking lot. He even admits that he wanted to kill white people, so where is his federal hate crime charges. That's right black on white hate crimes are typically not viewed as a hate crime except in certain occasions.

    April 13, 2014 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  21. gw

    Since the Civil Rights Act was passed in the mid-60s the Republican party turned overtly racist.Many Democrats in the South joined Republicans because of their disgust with not just desegregation but actual integration. With the election of Obama, the "elements" who are racists have come out in the open.

    April 13, 2014 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  22. Obvious

    A Democrat calling someone racist is like MacDonalds calling someone fat.

    April 13, 2014 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  23. wotudezerv

    amazing. is it possible that people are just talking about the fact, FACT, that the GOP harbors racist beliefs and orientation, voting records, code language to its base, etc. have I been alone in noticing their treatment of the President of the USA? No. It can't be.

    this is not news. it is old, but it is a disgraceful fact of the GOP. And, until they boot these racists out, they will never ever get the majority they seek. They can think people vote dollars only, but they are mistake and then underestimate the morality of the people. We americans are not worldly, not informed, not particularly smart or sophisticated (just look at sarah pain for the proof, or that other nincompoop, bachmann) about things and ideas, in fact we hate 'ideas' and suspect them, but for now we are still a basically good people, or, enough of us are. The cynicism of the GOP says we are otherwise. But they are wrong.

    April 13, 2014 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  24. winstonsmith

    LH – you must have missed the whole "MLK is a communist" thing that people used against him when he was alive (and even now). When the anti-MLK people realized that wasn't going to work, they went to the womanizing alcoholic thing.

    How are those rose-colored glasses?

    April 13, 2014 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  25. FamilyDoc2

    Why is it that when someone points out obvious and blatent racism, they are immediately accused of "playing the race card". Until a dark-skinned man took over the Oval Office, I did not realize that 150 years after the Civil War there was still so much racism existing in this country. Deny it if you like, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Is the entire GOP base racist? Certainly not, but I don't hear much outcry from those who are not racist.

    April 13, 2014 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
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