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. crabman1

    L O L this is not a news flash

    April 14, 2014 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  2. seanster77

    Any sane person can see the true racists are the national democrats. They create and fabricate issues caused by the right. By using race as an instigator they have become the racists. For the left it is never about right or wrong, making things better, or finding a solution. It is only about winning.

    April 14, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  3. Tim

    LOL...racism? First, our brains function by noticing differences and relationships and using memory to fill in the holes of the moment we find not of importance to us. Facial skin color is an important indicator to the human brain- we should get over that as it is not the problem. It is what we do with that information that is. Do we mistreat those with different skin colors or hold a door open for them? Do we speak harshly or more gently? All 'racists' based actions. How funny is it that we live in a world and society where we make policy and law based on racism and then have those who do that base another political party as having 'racist elements'. If truly we really cared about racism and reducing it, we would not use that word as a way to depict swaths of certain people while all of us live within a system that bases policy and legislation and law upon race or any other human difference such as gender, age, religious affiliation, disability, etc. We claim we want to be treated the same yet we have divided out of merely being people to instead being affiliated with some group to be treated differently in our quest to be treated the same. We will never be color blind but we could live in a world where our laws are and all we care about is how one person treats another without regard to color and we hold each accountable for how one treats another despite our differences. Instead, we are divided and created little teams where one group accuses another of having 'elements' of something none of us are free. Funny.

    April 14, 2014 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  4. BrewersFan_7

    Are there racist members of the Republican party? Of course. Are there racist Democrats? Absolutely. Remember, it's Democrats who predominately support farm bills which tend to benefit rural white farmers. I'm not trying to imply that every white farmer is racist, but they're certainly out there.

    The bigger problem isn't which party has the most racists, it's that we continue to go along with the idea of identifying ourselves and each other by how much pigment we have in our skin or where our lineage stems from.

    April 14, 2014 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  5. Lewis

    When you have nothing to run on then pull the race card.

    April 14, 2014 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  6. Voice of Truth

    There's racist elements in the Democratic party as well. In fact, the Democratic Party is the one of the two major parties that favors institutional bias of one race over another with affirmative action.

    April 14, 2014 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  7. Hogan's Goat

    ".I guess that makes me a racist.Hunh?" Yep. You sound so proud of it, too. Just another crazy person ranting on the internet who can't spell or punctuate.
    I can't believe the GOP actually bothers to deny being racists. They'd lose half their base if they took a strong pro-black stand and stopped pretending every black person is on permanent welfare. Hell, they'd lose half their base if more people graduated from high school.You gotta love the way they keep insisting "No, Democrats are racists because they didn't vote for Mitt." But you know, it's no fun trying to comment on issues when the FOX trolls just yap yap yap like dogs, so bye bye and have fun pretending the GOP is still relevant.

    April 14, 2014 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  8. JBo

    I previously read this article, then stumbled across a study based completely on race, how the majority will change over the next 35 years and how S. Africa applies. I think it's interesting to say the least.
    TheWeek dot com has a substantial review by Ryan Clark. It has insight into the ANC and how it's become another "grubby political party on the make". But the point that caught me was the race baiting that's occuring there and how we experience the same in the U.S. It is easy to fall prey to the race baiters. Just be careful...

    April 14, 2014 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  9. Sandy Beaches

    It takes one to know one.

    April 14, 2014 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  10. Dean

    Democrat policies hurt minorities more. Which party is more racist?

    April 14, 2014 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  11. Zippy

    If the gop would have harrased the previous administation for allowing 9/11 and sacrficing embassy personell and not doing anything about it, they might have gotten some credibility from me.

    April 14, 2014 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  12. David

    So the southern democrats were the ones in the KKK, they were against the equal voting acts, yet because you disagree with the Republicans you call them Racist. From what i can see it's the Democrats. Every time a Republican has a difference of opinion, its racist, war on women, war on this. I think the American people are starting to realize who the real racist are in America. It's the Al Sharptions, Jessie Jacksons, etc.

    April 14, 2014 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  13. rla

    The democratic/progressive wing has become extreme beyond belief.... This bunch have failed over the last 5 years and can't accept the fact that their phiolosphy is a failure again! Sorry but the race card is old and using it shows disrespect for American citizens who have tried so hard to keep this historical narrative to a minimum. Why do democrats not care about the unity of the country and embrace how far we have come as a nation??? My guess is we have people in power who don't care about America only their failed philosophy and power..

    April 14, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  14. rs

    Look, our friends on the Right, no one is saying the Right (as a whole) is racist. Read the words again- the Right contains racist elements. Mind, and polite perhaps as a way of saying you have a problem politically. Your base flies the Confederate flag; questions the President's birth record (and educational records and more)- no other President has been more scrutinized- and yes, he is Black.
    Your anti-voter laws are racist. Your right-to-discriminate laws are racist; your anti-civil rights musings in public (like Mr. Paul's and others) are racist. They just are. You can deny and deflect (no, pointing out a dead southern Democratic Senator belonged to the KKK is not relevant- any more than stating Lincoln was a Republican), but you shirk reality. Don't like the label? Fix your party!

    April 14, 2014 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  15. wrm

    "Rep. Steve Israel, D-New York, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that "not all" of his GOP colleagues are racist"

    Yeah, cuz you're the authority on who is and isn't racist. Give me a break.

    April 14, 2014 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  16. ScottC

    Sure, just like the democrats have plenty of racists amongst their ranks. Any fool can see this is the case. Trying to say racism is limited to one party is an obviously false and ignorant assertion.

    April 14, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  17. ScottC

    Sure just like the (D) have r a c is t s amongst their base. Plenty to go around.

    April 14, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  18. Pete

    I remember how the last conventions went for republicans in Tampa..How just a sprinkling of diffent races just to show the republicans had some diversity,just a ploy to shut us democrates up right..Then the incident with your conventioneers throwing peanuts at a black news caster calling her a monkee..No matter how many republicans you throw in a barrel and shake it and dump its, all racists land on the floor and you've proved it more times than once...

    April 14, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  19. nyet vodka

    I had neighbors that were huge racists, as their children from age five to eight drew swastika's and ss markings over the side walks, I complained to management. Management did nothing and allowed the chalk drawings to remain.
    Racism is not so much a political representation of what party one may belong to but a mind that has no bearing on what is love.
    It works with all colors of mankind.
    Nyet vodka for you!

    April 14, 2014 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  20. Mikeeee

    Every word coming out of this administration is meant to divide the population. Every news story that comes out is meant to pit one side against the other and create a country that has no majority. This week its Republicans against hispanics, last week they were against women, the week before it was the poor. They will not be happy until men and women, black and white, rich and poor, christian and all other religions feel like they are being persecuted. America is great because it is a melting pot of different cultures, classes, and religions, its time for us to stop worrying about what another group has or has not and worry about ourselves and our families.

    April 14, 2014 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  21. angus

    I would dare say that in reality it is the Democratic Party that has continued its support of that "peculiar institution" it supported throughout the South during the first half of the 19th century. Before you dismiss my suggestion, please look at the facts. The Democratic Party has merely shifted the control of the dependent population from a local level ( the Plantation owner) to the bureaucracy of Washington (The Federal Government). Control and submission is what DC wants....not equal opportunity regardless of race. If being a truly "color blind" society is wrong, then I guess I live on the wrong side.

    April 14, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  22. Marcus (from...?)

    j williamson – Pathetic attempt that of yours. John Mitchell did NOT died in prison, for starters, in fact he died over a decade after he left the minimum securit y facility he was sent to. And he was guilty of planning and executing the crime he was convicted of, all the proofs have been made public ever since.

    April 14, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  23. bigdoglv

    No racists on the left though. Except for the guy wearing a medal declaring white people are demons. You know, the one that spends a lot of time at the White House with his wife?

    April 14, 2014 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  24. Relax

    Every President and AG gets a lot of criticism from Congress from day one. Holder and Obama are not getting any special treatment, good or bad. Remember Clinton being impeached and harassed by Congress for his whole second term because he got a BJ in the oval office. Congress jumps on scandals and harasses people they feel are responsible just so they look good politically. So when people get riled up about benghazi and other scandals, the politicians are going to hold hearings, ask stupid questions, find out nothing and tell their voters that they cared and stood up for them. Saying they are doing it because you are a minority is taking your problem and blaming it on your race, which is is kind of racist I think?

    April 14, 2014 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  25. Richard

    I know bigots don't want to hear the truth. I wonder why they don't stick to reading the Faux news that they so love. This country has grown a new crop of racists and they are not going away. The republican congress is just ripe with them. Fortunately, their days are numbered. This country is turning more minority everyday and I love it. I am a white man who not only professes to be Christian but works everyday to follow the tenets of Jesus!

    April 14, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
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