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. Are you kidding me?

    Totally agree the GOP and Tea party have racist underpinnings that emerged to the forefront and have define both groups since 2008. It is hard to prove otherwise because both have conducted themselves with such disrespect for our President. If they agreed and worked in good faith WITH the President then it would believe otherwise. Until then I have to agree with this classification.

    April 14, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  2. Rob-Texas

    Yeap, we are all a bunch of racists. Everything would be perfect and there would never be a race issiue if it weren't for Republicans. Heresay, conjecture, taking sentences out of context, all points showing your are right on target. I personally think our lawmakers and the administration are always about 3 steps behind the rest of the country.

    April 14, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  3. M

    Racism never dies. During the height of KKK power in America, there were about 2-4 million members. Did they all just die out? Of course not. The KKK club went down in flames when their grand wizard in Indiana raped a white woman. And then they just joined the political party that reflects their ideas best. You all can figure out which one on your own.

    April 14, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  4. FLIndy

    The proof is in the pudding – all one had to do was watch the two National Conventions in 2008 & 2012 to see which party is more diverse, It was beyond obvious that the Republican party is the party of old, white people and if they don't start changing their ways they will never win another presidential election (which is a good thing!). Anyway, from the night of President Obama's inauguration when a group of Republican congressman got together and schemed to not go along with anything this President does to now, even though he was overwhelmingly reelected, they have shown their party's true colors and they aren't pretty!

    April 14, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  5. Deac

    There may be even more racists on the other side

    April 14, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  6. RettasVegas

    I agree NOT all in the GOP are racist, my problem with them is that the majority of them don't call out to those in their party who are loud and public about being racist for fear of the TeaNut's, (the red meat base) and that's just one of many reasons I & many of my family member's & friend's have all left the GOP, many of us 3rd generation's of GOP in S. Nevada. It's not your proud parent's GOP anymore folk's, that's for damn sure.
    If Regan were alive, he would NOT be a part of these lunatic's that have highjacked the GOP, that I do know!
    We are all now Independent's who are all fed up with the EXTREME'S in the GOP!

    April 14, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  7. Eagle6421

    The refuge of a liberal. Don't agree with them and the automatic reaction is racism, war on (you fill in the blank). They are weak minded and cannot engage in debate. Their answer to everything is to ridicule, deflect, defame, and lie. They whine incessantly about Obama not getting what he wants. Just because he is a weak leader who cannot work well with others is his fault. He is the "One We Have Been Waiting For". He won the Nobel Peace Prize for just showing up. He was describe as the great uniter. Then when he fails it is always someone else's fault and of course the fall back position of racism behind every tree.

    April 14, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  8. voiceofreasonoriginal

    So the GOP has racist elements, but no mention of racism in the Democratic Party. So the over 90% of blacks voting for Obama aren't just voting for the black guy? The New B,ack Panther party is not racist? The 5% Nation is not racist? La Raza is not racist?

    Nope, only Republicans can be "racist". When Democrats adhere to race-based ideologies and racial-superiority, that doesn't count.

    April 14, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  9. frankbeattys

    James Earl Ray was a Democrat and killed MLK jr.
    John Wilkes Booth was a Democrat and killed Lincoln..

    April 14, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  10. voiceofreasonoriginal

    I'm pretty sure that Louis Farrakan is not a Republican. I'm pretty sure that the New Black Panther party, 5% Nation, and La Raza don't belong to the GOP.

    All you punks claiming all racists are Republicans just got pwnd.

    April 14, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  11. DJones

    Utterly silly article. I have known a few racists in my time and a lot of them are card carrying Democrats. Racism is a problem, but it doesn't belong to only one party.

    April 14, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  12. Dr veruju

    The GOP is not alone. The Democratic party is a racist abomination as well.

    April 14, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    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!
    And in regards to our illustrious attorney general and his remarks:
    "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."
    He's 1000% correct.
    We stood on those looooong lines to re-elect President Barack HUSSEIN Obama for a reason, the reason being that we had a full four years of seeing this man disrespected, blocked, obstructed, and demaned in a way that we have NEVER seen any other President treated.

    The racists and the haters came out at first tentatively, using mouthpieces to say and do what they were too cowardly to do themselves.
    They got comfortable after a little while.
    Fired or got rid of the mouthpieces and came out of the closet in full sheet regalia darn near.
    You can moan and deny all you want, but it is the truth and in your sick hearts you know it.
    You can't cover the sun with one finger and you can't undo history.
    You're on record.
    The racists within the GOP went buckwild. They thought they could treat THIS President any which way because he wouldn't want to throw out the race card...
    Well you're right. He couldn't and wouldn't but through our vote and our support of him WE could and did.
    We will not sit still and let you treat THIS President any which way.
    Recognize that.

    April 14, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  14. MaryM

    Of course there are racist elements in the GOP. Americans still remember all the GOP/TPers signs degrading President Obama.
    That is all the proof you need!!

    April 14, 2014 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  15. vic of New York

    In response to John Boehner and the rest of the RepubliCON trash bag: I guess that KKK guy who just killed four Jews over Passover is not Racist either. ...dollars to doughnuts he's a registered Republican!

    April 14, 2014 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  16. KieranH

    Gee, YA THINK???? Of course the GOP is racist. Look at the "red" states and tell me which one or two don't have a story of being dragged behind pickup truck naked.

    April 14, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  17. ja

    Stupid ideology, hypocrisy, all of America are immigrants except the American Indians

    April 14, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  18. george cook

    ONLY the RACE CARD Huh-LEFTIES-old page in a very OLD Playbook-try something else!!! If that's all you got-FORGET the Mid Terms-You all are "out of business!"

    April 14, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  19. boston dan

    Funny. The biggest racists I've seen are"progressives". They appear to believe that minorities are incapable of taking care of themselves and need constant government support. Horribly racist and insulting.

    April 14, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  20. Kevin

    Candy Crowley should be ashamed. To allow a congressman to come on to her show and slander a "significant" portion of the Republican base and not challenge him on it is reprehensible and shows her obvious bias.

    April 14, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  21. Dave

    About time somebody said it.

    The Republican party has been courting racists for over a century. The "Southern Strategy" wasn't about geography, people!!


    The fact that Republicans have been able to do this and not be called racists themselves, is an amazing feat of media manipulation.

    You actively bring racists into your party and you deserve to be ridiculed for it.

    April 14, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  22. guy

    Often those who preach tolerance are often the most intolerant.

    April 14, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  23. NOPhah Kingweigh

    Look, just because the GOP wants to l y n c h Obama on the White House lawn doesn't make them racist. Oh, wait. Yes it does.

    April 14, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  24. MTATL67

    GOP well known for its racism

    April 14, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  25. Namejanelle

    Nobody more racist than Obama

    April 14, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
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