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. TheObserver


    Who will work all the jobs that Americans aren't willing to work then? Who will pick fruit, and wash dishes, and landscape? Did you really think illegal aliens TOOK those jobs from Americans. Maybe the illegals took our grandfathers WORK ETHIC, but they didn't take their jobs. Those jobs aren't fit for your average self-entitled American.

    April 14, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  2. Earle

    Look in the mirror, Dems are the biggest racists of all... BTW we don't like Billy Boy foot in mouth chairwarmer Biden either. Now what, were racist because we don't like the President and vice President, caught you flat footed huh? Good luck peddling that arguement...

    April 14, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    "Over 50 years after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, the issue of race is back in the political headlines"

    Isn't this article 6 years too late?

    April 14, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  4. jvburrows

    "The process for getting away with anything if you don't know what your doing" by Obama.... Play race card, Play race card, Play race card, hire minorities to play race card, hire more minorities to play race card

    April 14, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  5. Fair is Fair


    Getting close to election time...as if on cue...the democrats starting spewing about how racist the GOP is. Meanwhile, they will continue to spew their misogyny towards conservative women, their racism towards conservative minorities, and their religious bigotry towards Christians.

    Ah yes...the democrats are just so tolerant...as long as you go along with their viewpoint. Otherwise....
    Well stated and spot-on.

    April 14, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  6. tv22

    So much racist projection by the liberals. It really is telling how they feel about themselves as they try to project their own feeling on to others.

    April 14, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  7. Has CNN been reduced to this?

    Is this a joke? Eric Holder blasts out with racist comments, a Democrat "says not all of his GOP acquaintances are racist" – and CNN floats this article out there? Time for a gut-check CNN, you are stirring the racist pot by even participating in this kind of behavior!

    April 14, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  8. Brhino

    So I guess we're heading back to the good old democrat talking points as we approach the midterms. It might be nice to try something new every once in a while there Nancy..........

    April 14, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  9. Hogan's Goat

    Ho hum, of course they are racists. Give me a break, their whole platform is "Get the brown and black people!" Why is this even news? Any good ideas they might have had were drowned out by the flag-burners ten years ago, and the truth isn't in them. They are desperate to win an election so they can try to bring back 1952.

    April 14, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  10. SoSad

    What's new, of course they are (not all) racist's. The treatment of President Obama, by just calling him Obama not President is a direct racist attack that is demeaning to the Office of the Presidency. Just look at commentators who do not address at President Obama. This is just a small part of a larger issue of racist's in the United States.

    Saying that, the Republicans will not win the Presidency because, they will not move on immigration.

    April 14, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  11. TheObserver

    I love everyone who's saying, 'Oh and the Democrats have no racists at all, ok.' Is this to imply that America should in fact let racist Congresspeople into office provided the number of racists is equal between Demo and Repub?

    How about this: It's 2014 and racism needed to die a long time ago. If you're still racist, then know that all the good people in the world are eagerly anticipating your expiration. How about we raise our standards a little and insist on..... hmmmmmm........ NO RACISTS IN CONGRESS AT ALL..... EVER!

    Anybody?......... Bueller?

    April 14, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  12. Bull

    Sure, the GOP has racist elements, but the suggestion that all the woes on Capitol Hill boil down to race is preposterous. It's not about Holder or Obama being black, it's about an administration that has "refused to negotiate" and a new radical GOP controlled by the psychotic Tea Party. Combine the Democrats' refusal to reach across the aisle with the loony toons the GOP has adopted into their ranks and you get the political dystopia that currently plagues DC.

    April 14, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  13. Evelyn Connaway

    As an 87 year old white woman born in Tuscaloosa county, Alabama. I watched this racial bigotry all my life. Nothing has changed – the majority with the money, power and social status – mostly white, have not changed. They are still bigoted. They can change political parties and political ideology, but that inbred hatred of others different than they are is still there. What Eric Holder said was the absolute truth. The truth is absolute, it is the same today as it was yesterday and as it will be tomorrow! We SUPPOSEDLY fought the Civil War – American against American to end slavery and discrimination. I know the lose of my ancestors and think to myself – Dear God, what fools we mortals be, and the end did not justify the means. The same things are still going on in our country, the same power hungry, greed and corruption, along with the discrimination against others who they feel are beneath them in social status. Often wonder what these people will do, when the finally meet God and Jesus Christ and find out they might be black. What a waste of human life due to hatred!

    April 14, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  14. B.

    Everyone already knows the GOP is filled with Racists, you can’t hide that.

    April 14, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  15. [name intensifies]

    If this is what the standard Democrat thinks, then I feel sorry for the entire party. It must be hard trying to keep an organization up and running when everyone is functioning at a middle-school level. Then again, if Democrats didn't constantly throw out childish rhetoric and foster non-existent divisions in race, gender, and social status, then they would have stopped existing a long time ago.

    April 14, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  16. Bull

    The DNC is just as racist as the GOP, the difference is the GOP is overt and the DNC is covert. The GOP has loons that spout racist rhetoric, the DNC advocates policies that keep minorities "in their place," poor and dependent on the government.

    April 14, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  17. ghostwriter

    Sorry conservatives....disagreeing with the president doesn't make you a racist. Believing that black folks voted for Obama simply because of race does. And a vast number of conservatives have no problem stating that.

    April 14, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  18. Krismaer

    When Colin Powell and Condeleeza Rice were cabinet members I think they were treated fairly by all. I think this is more Party politics than racism. I am a Democrat. I also think that the GOP has a way to go before they will be a more inclusive party. As a woman I can't vote for their platform.

    April 14, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  19. Evelyn Connaway

    Pardon the many errors, I haven't had my coffee and cigarette yet.

    April 14, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  20. Jim

    I'll bet you a year's pay that the guy who just killed the three people at the Jewish Centers is a Republican.

    April 14, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  21. DG

    The only people that want this to be a big deal are those that need it to be a big deal. The ones that make money and power from sowing the seeds of racism thru gov't and media sponsored propaganda.

    Remember, its racist to tell a man to stand up on his own two feet and take care of himself but its not racist to keep him on his knees, poor and inept for the sake of a vote. The the depths of racism by the liberal MSM and politcos of the last several decades is astounding. The whole country should be ashamed at the spectacle this has become.

    April 14, 2014 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  22. chet

    Holder plays the race card because he can't do his job – nothing new there! Come on – this race card thing has gotten worn out, we have a POTUS we have had all kinds of high level Blacks in posts throughout our culture – the fact is – Holder isn't doing the job and it isn't because he is Black that he is getting heat.

    April 14, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  23. TheObserver


    Might want to read " Unfounded Loyalty the Racist History of the Democratic Party documented by
    Wayne Perryman, an inner city minister in Seattle and the author of Unfounded Loyalty, in an editorial circulating on the Internet (Feb. 2004): "History reveals that every piece of racist legislation that was ever passed and every racist terrorist attack that was ever inflicted on African Americans, was initiated by the members of the Democratic Party. From the formation of the Democratic Party in 1792 to the Civil Rights movement of 1960's, Congressional records show the Democrat Party passed no specific laws to help Blacks, every law that they introduced into Congress was designed to hurt blacks in 1894 Repeal Act. The chronicles of history shows that during the past 160 years the Democratic Party legislated Jim Crows laws, Black Codes and a multitude of other laws at the state and federal level to deny African Americans their rights as citizens.

    History reveals that the Republican Party was formed in 1854 to abolish slavery and challenge other racist legislative acts initiated by the Democratic Party.

    Some called it the Civil War, others called it the War Between the States, but to the African Americans at that time, it was the War Between the Democrats and the Republicans over slavery. The Democrats gave their lives to expand it, Republican gave their lives to ban it."


    April 14, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  24. bill9860

    No doubt there are racists in the GOP just like there are on the Dem side. Not only does party affliation not determine whether you are racist or not, neither does race. Prime examples of three of the biggest racists in this country,,,,Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Louis Farrkan, the later two being obvious anti-smites to boot. I don't suspect I will hear any Democrats call them out on anything any time soon.

    April 14, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  25. Nathan

    Racism is the weapon of the Democratic party. If it wasn't for racism, what would they use as a convenient distraction every time one of their policies fails miserably? There are racists in every group, party, organization, what have you. There are racists of all colors, backgrounds and affiliations. But to say that it's racist to disagree with a black member of government in any branch is ludicrous. I'm sure that there are people who disagree based on race but I'd say the vast majority disagree on ideal.

    April 14, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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