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. Bull

    Holder isn't the first person to be sanctioned because he's black, he's the first to be sanctioned because he's the first to be caught up in so many controversies that hasn't retired of their own volition and refuses to cooperate with legitimate investigations.

    April 14, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  2. manWithThe100PoundBrain

    "svscnn: There are racists on both sides of the fence today, but at least they are neatly divided. The anti-white camp on the left, while the anti-color pitch their tents on the right." Your idea that the two sides are "neatly divided" would be laughable if it wasn't so serious. Democrats are trying to limit the vote for minorities. Democrats haven't repeatedly insisted that white presidents weren't really born here are were illegitimate. Pointing these sort of things out isn't being anti-white. The southern GOP exists because they abandoned the democratic party in the 60s due to the civil rights movement. If that had not happened, the conservative movement the led to Reagan being elected and the end to the half century of Congressional control by the democrats would never have happened. Yes, there are racists everywhere but MOST racists are right wingers. It is not "evenly divided."

    April 14, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  3. Chris

    So, the GOP has a racist element, I guess that means the Black Panther Party is a GOP supporter. This is just CNN trying to report on an non existent story, when the Supreme Leader Obama is taking this Country down hill.

    April 14, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. rs

    bill birch

    And Harry Reid is a crook enriching his son by forcing a cattle rancher off state land using the federal BLM run by Reid's former staffer so his son could sell the land below market value to a Chinese solar firm in a 5 billion dollar crony capitalism deal by the rich not paying their fair share in an illegal way.
    But you won't read these details on this site.
    More Rightist delusionalism. You know this got fact checked right into the trash can of Rightwing lies, right?

    April 14, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  5. Thor

    So... what have we got to say about the first GOP president, Mr Holder?

    April 14, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  6. Rogue351

    Which party do you think the Arian Brotherhood and KKK vote with ? It has been this way for years and until now everyone on the R side of the isle has been ok with it. So, it’s ok to vote along side of a group of racists share their values and agree with their choice for a candidate but perfectly acceptable to consider yourself not a racist by doing so? Exactly how does that work ? If it looks like a skunk and it smells like a skunk chances are pretty good it is a skunk.

    April 14, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  7. ChrisM

    Yes, the GOP does have racist elements in their party. And until the GOP denounces that part of the GOP, the GOP will Always be tied to those racist extremist.

    No one in America will forget the signs held up by the TP/GOP of President Obama. The racist at their finest hours

    April 14, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. Steve

    Let's get real here!! We have THE most racists president of all time sitting in the White House....the one who had the gaul to run on a platform of unity......and someone calls the Republicans racist??? Republicans stand for full equality, regardless of nationality, faith, situation in or out of the womb, and economic status. The Democrats worship and promote their heroes and call everyone else racist.

    April 14, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  9. Tony in Maine

    Hey John Birch – it's BLM land, not Harry Reid's son. That's just another one of the right wing's stinking lies.

    April 14, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  10. J RUss

    TheObserver – citizens will do those jobs when they're paid a legal wage unlike that paid to the immigrant now. Of course we'll pay more at the store but that's the price of following the rules,

    April 14, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  11. dinkydow

    Racist...over used word that means nothing anymore.......boring!

    April 14, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  12. NickWojo531

    White against black – Racist Republican
    Black against white – Heroic Democrat
    It's sad that racism hasn't gone away, it only got reversed.

    April 14, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  13. bobo

    The Dems are the real racists... they want to give a little to poor people to keep them wanting more.... and therefore the poor will keep giving them their votes. Republicans want to teach the poor How to survive... to live, to take chances, to be free!

    April 14, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  14. rare_earth

    "The GOP has a racist element"
    My parents, their friends and relatives, and every God fearing, Republican, Baptist I've ever met has racist elements.
    This is nothing new.

    April 14, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  15. kev2672

    "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 but all democrats are anti semites.

    April 14, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  16. Andrew Nutra

    This is all true. Everyone knows that if immigrants that were coming to this country were from Scandinavia they would all be welcomed with open arms.

    April 14, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  17. critical thinking

    I think most, both Democrats and Republicans are not bothered by Holder or Obama's color of their skin but are bothered by the thickness of their skin. It is shameful to think that two highly educated Americans continue to race bait and try to divide this country.

    April 14, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  18. Dale

    Nobody in the GOP has a racist bone in there body.

    April 14, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  19. DG

    I'm better than celebrating one race over others. That's the Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton way, and is the antithesis to everything Dr. King stood for.

    April 14, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  20. Jme

    Is this guy up for re-election? Sounds pretty desperate to me.

    April 14, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  21. Richard Right

    I would submit that at least 35% of the DNC is racist. That is the only reason to explain the number of people supporting Pres Obama in view of his poor performance over 5 years.

    April 14, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. neverbeenhappieratheist

    This is like stating that water is wet.

    April 14, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  23. Refuse2giveup

    Enough already! This administration and their followers are the most blatantly racist I have ever seen. The way they treat and speak about any black individual who speaks out against their policies is appalling. They would have you think Allen West is a raving lunatic. They attempt to discredit the distinguished Dr. Ben Carson and call him an Uncle Tom. Tell me, who are the real racists? Why are they the first to hurl the accusations of racism at any criticism? They are always the first to bring up race. When they fail to uncover any real evidence of racism, they accuse the right of using "code words."

    April 14, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  24. sdlover

    What a shocker! A democrat politician thinks there are racist elements in the GOP! How generous of him to admin that not all of the GOP are racist.

    April 14, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  25. Theresa Hall

    Unfortunately, there is racism in every race of
    people. It only seems especially true with "white" conservatives for a host of reasons;
    1) Power
    2) Fear of Loss of Power
    3) Too Accustomed to "How Things Were"

    Once all of humanity really understands that
    God never intended for us to be seperated by
    race! God said, Love Thy Neighbor. He Never
    said, Don't Love Them, If They Are Not Like You!

    April 14, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
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