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. tru2americafirst

    The GOP has more than one raging racist besides Boehner.

    April 14, 2014 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  2. basedonfact

    If republicans are champions of the African-Americans as some on these comment board assert, and are the ones who pushed through the voting rights act , why did they bring the case that overturned it in SCOTUS and why did they cheer when it happened? We are talking about TODAYS republican party. The good things the progressive liberal republican party did 50 or 100 years ago does not have any bearing on today's republican party. The KKK was started by CONSERVATIVES back when the conservatives voted democrat.

    April 14, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  3. parshman

    Wow...judging from these comments you all must be holed up in your bomb shelters. So deluded....

    April 14, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  4. Name

    I see all the great democtats and black folks saying white are racist if they do not adhere to the lefts views because they are smarter, diverse, and tolerant. However, a man lays in a hospital bed because he got beat by 11 black guys because he was in a wrong neighborhood. He stopped his truck because he struck a child thst stepped on the road as the man was driving.

    April 14, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  5. Ben

    Just so we're clear, what party did all of the founding members of the KKK, members in the 1960s and most current members belong to???

    April 14, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  6. parshman

    Saying a black man is incompetent is not racist...it is very fair. The same can be said of a woman, a white male, latino etc. People are judeged by their actions.

    April 14, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  7. Ben

    basedonfact, I would do a little reading. It was not a conservative-liberal issue, it was a southern issue and southern racists were Democrats and Democrat members of congress, in the last ten years, had Klan ties. Many northern conservatives were hardly Klansmen and many New Dealer southern Democrats still hated blacks...including one who became president you are incorrect.

    April 14, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  8. Marty

    Anyone who knows very many people could honestly say that there are racists democrats as well- anyone who says otherwise is lying. I grew up in KY, and lived, worked, and played sports with several racial groups, but it wasn't until I moved north to Indiana and later Illinois, that I witnessed racism. It was in the UNION members that I worked with in the Midwest. Union DEMOCRATS to be specific.

    You can't tell me or anyone else who has any common sense, that only republicans have some racists in their midst- I know better from personal experience.

    April 14, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  9. Quidestveritas

    Wow, cnn in full DNC campaign mode what with separate articles and videos asking just how racist the GOP is. I know a lot of people on the right claim the democrats are socialists, I wonder if CNN is going to run a similar series of articles and round tables asking if that's true.

    April 14, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  10. FLIndy

    @Jerry Whitcomb – "The Democrats have screwed up every policy, every program, and every foreign policy they have implemented"
    They may not be perfect but at least they DO implement programs and policies for the American people unlike the Repubs who have done absolutely NOTHING for the past 12 years except get us into a war that left our country in a ditch that this president has been pulling us out of for the past 6 years.

    April 14, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "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.
    Let me make this simple for the willful simpletons on this thread: Has the President come out and disagreed with ANY of Eric Holder's statements regarding race, in particular with the above statement, which has been made many times before in various forms?
    There's your answer then.
    Back into the bubble you may go......but the truth awaits you whenever you decided to join the rest of us here in the real world.

    April 14, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  12. FLIndy

    All those who keep repeating that the Repubs freed the slaves and voted for the Civil Rights Act, etc. need to retake American history. The party philosophies have switched since then and what used to be the Republican party is now the Democratic party and vice versa. In other words, Lincoln would be a Democrat today. If you saw the movie "Lincoln" you would realize this.

    April 14, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  13. Don Gerard

    The GOP has white racist elements in it. Duh! The Democratic Party has black racist elements in it. Duh! Raza Unita has hispanic racist emements in it. Duh!

    April 14, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  14. BinFL

    @schaz – "The Democrats have a long history of this mud slinging. If you disagree with any of their policies your are a raciest, or something and you are expected to spend a substantial amount of time and money defending yourself against the charge. They have taken Joseph McCarthy's tactics and raised them to a fine art."
    Much like the Repub tactic of calling Americans "unpatriotic" and "treasonous" if they don't agree with their policies, right?

    April 14, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  15. BostonDan

    Blatant racism is horrid and ignorant for sure. But, at least you know where someone stands who is blatant. I would suggest the worse racism is the type that has an underlying assumption that some minorities are helpless and need constant and perpertual government support. so-called "Progressives" are the worst of the bunch While pretending to be oh-so-color blind, they support programs that can result in a permanent underclass. People forget that the original Progressive Movement called for forced sterilization of the "underclass", amongst other wonderful things.
    Yes, there are racist republicans. Yes there are racist whites. Yes, there are racist Democrats,. Yes, there are racist blacks. And on and on and on. Ignorance and stupidity are not unique to any political party, race or class.
    So, stop playing the race card, politicians, and address real problems with real solutions please (a plea doomed to failure, I'm sorry to say). Voters/citizens don't rise to the sound bite and the racist labels, they are designed to keep you from thinking for yourself!

    April 14, 2014 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  16. Really?

    M-really?. the rich got richer under Obama? Right. Under Bush the rich got richer and thanks to Bush, the middle class was destroyed in 2008. It was the largest shift of wealth in history, 2nd only to the Great Depression.
    U don't get to make up your own facts sir. So typical to run back to Bush when Obama promised he was going to look out for the middle class. Yet our taxes have gone up and income gone down since he took office. More people are on govt and assistance and that is the goal of the Dims all along. U can sit there and try to blame Bush but it is all Obama. My income was higher under Bush and my spending power was much stronger. My taxes were much lower and we were not struggling. Don't believe me? Look at your grocery bill under the Bush admin and now. Look at your income then and now. Ask anyone today if they were better off before Obama or now. Majority of the country in all polls say the country is in worse shape. Thanks to Obama. Keep drinkng that kool aid. People like u keep your head in the sand and refuse to see th truth. Wall Street gave more to Obama in the last campaign and they are getting what they paid for. The top 1% are the ones doing well since Obama took office. Not the middle class.

    April 14, 2014 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  17. Ancient Texan

    Martus, -You are 100% correct. LBJ knew exactly what he was doing and made those statements. Now the "racists "are the folks that disagree with the administrations policies, or programs. The outstanding racist I see now is HOLDER himself.

    April 14, 2014 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  18. Really?

    Dominican mama 4 Obama"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.
    Try Bush. You people have a selective memory of the vitriole during the Bush Admin. The effigees that were hung of him the constant protest and call for him to be tried at the Hague. Has Obama endured this?
    What President ever lied as much has Obama to the American people? Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS, NSA, Obamacare. In every single one of those instances Obama lied. He was suppose to be different than Bush and he is worse. So now the tactics of fear, with the war on women propaganda, and now the racist card. All in an effort to hide the fact of Obama's failed policies.
    What attorney general have stonewalled and lied about the truth more than Holder? And then they cry racism when held accountable. America should never elect another person of color for that reason alone.

    April 14, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  19. don in albuquerque

    We really haven't gone anywhere since the Civil War, have we.

    April 14, 2014 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  20. rs


    Racebait much? Harry Reid – D West Virgina was a card carring member of KKK..
    Sorry, FF, Mr. Reid hales from Nevada, and is Mormon (you can make your decisions about his racial attitudes based on that).

    April 14, 2014 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  21. CC333

    The Democratic base does have elements that are animated by racism, it starts from the top.

    April 14, 2014 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  22. Brad

    I'm a black conservative. I can say with 100% confidence that liberals in general are more racist than conservatives. It's disgusting that CNN runs such an article. Using race for your own political means is racist.

    April 14, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  23. Jorge P.

    The only racists are the ones bringing it up. We have a half black President, recently had a black female Secretary of State, and have countless black leaders and CEOs from all walks and both political aisles. Those who attempt to paint a whole party, or even elements of it as racist, clearly are attempting to use deflection tactics in order to distract from their lack of inability to defend their own party's merits. They look foolish, and fool fewer by the day.

    April 14, 2014 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  24. Standard Issue

    “Among independents, 26 percent have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party, while 25 percent have a positive view of the Democratic Party and 20 percent the Republican Party”.

    Conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R). The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points

    I believe that the poll of the independents reflect the feelings of a lot of us. It is how the remaining 29 percent will vote, that will decide our future.

    April 14, 2014 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  25. Mayfray

    Let me guess, the Democrats are behind in the polls? Ah, yes, and of course the mid terms are coming this year. Roll out the racist campaign cop out. You liberal shameless propagandists have diluted the term and meaning of "racism" to the point that it doesn't even turn heads anymore. Nice job guys.

    April 14, 2014 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
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