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. Rex

    The Democratic base has a vested interest in dribble such as this. By racemongering, the Dems continue to scare their followers into believing that they must continue in power to be able to keep the racists at bay, and the lemings of the American electorate continue to follow them over the cliff.

    April 14, 2014 04:16 am at 4:16 am |
  2. David M.

    According to the liberals, anybody that doesn't see things their way plitically speaking is a racist! I never use to think of myself as a racist, but I disagree with the current administration and thanks to the liberal media now more than half of the country are apparently racists too. ....Thank goodness, the worn out term "racist" by todays standards doesn't mean what it use to mean! ...LOL

    April 14, 2014 04:34 am at 4:34 am |
  3. nemo0037

    In other news, water is wet and fire is hot... All brought to you by "Captain Obvious."

    April 14, 2014 04:46 am at 4:46 am |
  4. fedupwithla

    Glad to hear of such conciliatory and mollifying behavior in the land . . .

    April 14, 2014 04:50 am at 4:50 am |
  5. Kim P

    The ones that cast the first stones at Obama......Racist bigots the lot of them. Every black man in America knows its a racist society. We should hate white America with a vengence but we dont. Look at any GOP gathering, you see one black or brown face in the crowd if youre lucky, thats not just an accident. Look at the Tea Party scum, same deal bigots the lot.......but they yell its Obama who racist, get a grip sheet wearers. It would not matter if Obama cured cancer, put a cadillac in every garage, erased the deficit and brought about world peace by a snap of his fingers, white racist America would still hate him. It has been and shall always be about race, and the haves and have nots. The same hypocrits on here smile in the face of their co-workers of color every day and spout poision once home with there family and friends.......look in the mirror and see who you really are good people, not a pretty sight.

    April 14, 2014 04:57 am at 4:57 am |
  6. BD70

    Eric Holder is black? Well I'll be......

    April 14, 2014 04:59 am at 4:59 am |
  7. Russell

    Playing the race card is about all the Democrats have at this point. Fortunately, few people are listening to this garbage anymore. Who pass the voting rights act? Republicans. Who passed the Fair Housing Act? Republicans. Who opposed these laws? Democrats. Who freed the slaves? Republicans. Holder is especially pathetic. He's a little man with thin skin, like his boss.

    April 14, 2014 05:12 am at 5:12 am |
  8. Bill

    Meanwhile, the covertly racist Democratic party continues to suppress the minorities, by continuing to offer them no incentive to do anything, in the hopes that they will all die off from drugs and gun violence, while publicly wringing their hands, and pointing at the Republicans, while calling THEM racists. They have guaranteed their success at the polls, by frightening various minority groups that if they don't vote for the Democrats, they will have everything taken away by the big, bad GOP boogeyman, and encourage fraudulent voting whenever possible, then label anyone who disagrees with this skullduggery a racist for challenging it.

    The only difference between a modern day Democrat, and one from before the US Civil War, is that they don't use whips and chains these days......except in the privacy of their own homes, that is!

    April 14, 2014 05:20 am at 5:20 am |
  9. Maripil

    The GOP are known to be racists!! To suggest that pres. Obama is not born American speaks volumes of their hatred and racism!!

    April 14, 2014 05:40 am at 5:40 am |
  10. b rain

    racism exists in BOTH parties. get over yourselves dimocrats.

    April 14, 2014 05:52 am at 5:52 am |
  11. Rick

    And in other news, the sky is blue and grass is green, sheesh.

    April 14, 2014 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  12. The Elephant in the Room

    To all those who say Holder & Obama and the Democrats are being thin-skinned and hiding their incompetence behind race, I say, Just how gulinle and uninformed do you think we are? Holder was a Deputy AG under Reno. There has never been an AG that wLked into the job MORE QUALIFIED than he. You critics don`t like his policies, the Administration politics and so therefore you try to attack his job performance . . . this is a COMMON tactic by traditionally white power structures when trying to take a black, latino or female executive down. But Holder graduated from a top law school [Columbia] and had 8 years of OJT at the DOJ before he got the job. No one has ever been as prepared to be AG AND HE HAS DONE AN OUTSTANDING JOB.
    History will record that BEFORE Mr. Obama was inagurated[ this means BEFORE he avanced any policy] Republicans were meeting to undermine him. We have NEVER seen that before. Nixon, nor Carter, nor Reagan, nor Daddy Bush, nor Clinton, nor Bush 43 were subjected to such subversion. Make him FAIL was the strategy and it predated any policies. Even when he incorporated traditional GOP-backed policies [and Obamacare has some] the racist Republicans opposed him. It has NEVER been about his "performance" nor Holder`s and history won`t be bamboozled by GOP talking points / spin. You GOP trolls fool no one.

    April 14, 2014 05:58 am at 5:58 am |
  13. tsl

    racism just like the democratic race baiters sharpton, jackson,ayers and the list goes on. who spent 20 years going to a "church" where a so called reverend wright spewed his hatred for the white race? and said it did not affect him. you do not attend a "church" for 20 years and not have something rub off on you.

    April 14, 2014 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  14. Don Jones

    I think we need to apologize to the Repubs who aren't racists. Both of them.

    April 14, 2014 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  15. Jeff Martin

    Apparently Peeknuckle isn't old enough to remember Reagan and Iran Contra

    April 14, 2014 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  16. jim g

    Real capitalism, not the theoretical version taught in school, is a system of minority rule in which a few people profit at the expense of others

    April 14, 2014 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  17. sc

    yeah all you peeps are creepy pot meet kettle?? really, well on then....here we come sixties and seventies REDUX

    April 14, 2014 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  18. berniecat@outlook.com

    they are the modern day archie bunkers

    April 14, 2014 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  19. someoneelse

    "the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism." may be true, but you will find far more racist in the Democratic party. Also, Pelosi's Irish comment is an out right lie! She has never heard that. If she has, it was made up by someone in her party.

    April 14, 2014 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  20. akka1234

    Everytime they don't get their way or are asked a hard question they cry "race". So sick of it. Incompetence is incompetence – no matter the color. Be a man already. Obama promised a transparent administration – still waiting... Obama promised to unite this country – still waiting... Obama is the leader of the greatest nation on earth – so lead already.

    April 14, 2014 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  21. Ohioan

    LH...unsure if you're a racist but your argument is. You infer taking a handout from the government or being indebted to the government is a black thing. Check out statistics from the red states in the south re government assistance. Saw a recent program detailing folks in W. Virginia or Kentucky waiting for their govt checks every month, claiming they were disabled. Not a black face in that bunch. Until you see govt assistance as one that people of all stripes can abuse, then we'll never really stop abuse and get help to people who really need it.

    April 14, 2014 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  22. Matt

    Don't forget, Steve S, the "Birther movement" was started by Hillary's primary campaign.

    April 14, 2014 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  23. Chewy

    Well lookie here, the the democrats are trying to play the race card now...again.
    " Holder suggested congressional Republicans have treated him and President Barack Obama, as African-Americans, differently from others who have held their positions."
    Ever consider that race has NOTHING to do with it? Maybe it is your own behavior?
    Judge not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
    It is NOT a good thing to elect a president based on the color of his skin and completely ignore the content of his character or his qualifications.

    This is not the first time the racists Tinkerbell or Holder has played the race card in order to try and gain some advantage.

    April 14, 2014 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  24. wakeup

    the WCRA (white christian racist americans) will never die as long as they can use racism to keep their heads above water and jmoney the sun does not rise

    Your point ? I can say the same about the Black Panthers ..

    April 14, 2014 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  25. Barry Doofus

    Funny, I feel the same way about dorkacrats. They are racist as can be. I mean, promoting poverty by handing out tax dollars instead of finding a solution, how could anything be more racist? They promote keeping the black man as a poor drug sodden slob.

    April 14, 2014 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
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