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. Henryk Flashner

    Saying that "there are racist elements" in the GOP is like stating that the Pope is Catholic. GOP is a good home for racists and reflects their attitudes.

    April 13, 2014 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  2. matt

    More weaponized political correctness propoganda from the left..

    April 13, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  3. rla

    Really– Watch what the progressive /dems do to black/conservative women... Actually the progressives have destroyed the black community and have them in a very ugly position and they did it for VOTES!

    April 13, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  4. ldean50

    This is not news. Google "Tea party nationalism" and read the reports regarding the founding of the Tea Party movement – it was born out of the KKK, white supremacist's groups and other racists organizations. As a white southern woman I think it's our responsibility as Southerners to out the racism that has seeped from the Tea Party into what used to be mainstream Republicanism. Racism is now universal in our country and the South can no longer be blamed as the "only" hate region.

    April 13, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. You are better than that

    So anytime you don't get your way, just cry racism. Is that the lesson we should be teaching our children? how does that help anyone? Come on now.

    April 13, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  6. bribarian

    This coming from the party who elected obama based off his blackness 😉

    April 13, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    "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," Nancy Pelosi said. Oh really? I am an immigrant myself. My wife is Mexican-American. You can say what you like about the Republicans but I have yet to see a Democrat that actually lives among the minorities that they say they love and embrace. The average Democrat is not that much different then the Republicans, including Pelosi. They have lived in neighborhoods, gone to schools and educated in institutions that were the richest of the rich and the whitest of the white. I have yet to see that many Democrats live among the poor they have so much empathy for or send their children to the same failing schools that they say are wonderful.

    April 13, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  8. beancounterz

    It should be noted that Rep. Greg Walden comes from one of 5 states which have NO CURRICULUM REQUIREMENT for teaching about the civil rights movement. I suspect that Mr Walden has no idea what he is talking about because he wouldn't know a civil right if it hit him in the face. Mr Boner's state got a D (BTW, a D is very generous since they only scored a 27, when I was in school, that was failing).

    April 13, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  9. Dee

    Of course they play to that base.

    April 13, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  10. judith

    This is a no-brainer. The Republican party started exploiting the racist elements in our society beginning with Nixon's "southern strategy" and count on it to help them keep the white vote. Sad, but, oh so true.

    April 13, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  11. Redspotz

    The Attorney General of The United States, particularly one who watches his boss ignore black-letter law should have concrete evidence prior to making such accusations, shouldn't he?

    April 13, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  12. Rocket power

    I'm shocked, shocked I say. Republicans racist, c'mon man!

    April 13, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  13. lloyd roberts

    It's because of the "southernization" of the republican party. Ever since the mass exodus of "dixiecrats" to the republican party in the 80's and 90's, it has added racist's to the base. It has also change the dynamics of what is conservative in today's political landscape. The days of the New England conservative, fiscally conservative, socially moderate, mindful of the mantra of limited and less intrusive government, not only fiscally, but in all parts of your life. Unfortunately, today's fake conservatives, led by the religious right, have abandoned true conservative principles and believe the government should regulate morality. The conservatism of William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater is officially dead and racism is tolerated

    April 13, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  14. mountainlady5281

    Despite hot GOP denial, this has been obvious since before the 2008 election. No president in my memory has ever been treated with such vitriol, harrying, harassment and deliberate obstruction. Pretending that race has nothing to do with GOP behavior is like ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the corner.

    April 13, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  15. x3zy

    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, Oh really? First of all, as an immigrant myself who came to this country legally, I find this very offensive. Secondly, I have yet to see any democrat who actually lives among the minorities that they publicly say they love so much. Almost all of the Democrats are no different then the Republicans. They are people who have lived in high society neighborhoods that are the richest of the rich, the whitest of the white and no nothing of the diversity that they preach about. I have yet to see anyone like Pelosi, Kerry, Obama or Kenedy live in poor places or send their children to schools that are full of poor minority children. Secondly,many of the most racist policies were during the times of the Democrats. Practice what you preach people. You are not much different then the Republicans.

    April 13, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  16. eta45

    LOL at Obama, Holder and 'Israel' labeling anybody 'raaacist' – they are the biggest 'raaacists' on the planet. Try assisting the private sector in creating at least ONE job Obama and 'Israel.' As far as Holder goes... he should just go... what more damage could one person possibly do as AG? I think Holder's about done it all...

    April 13, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  17. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    If Americans don't pull together and stop all the racism our future is doomed. While we're practicing racism foreign countries are defriending us because they don't trust us due to the we treat our own people. Racism is none productive for any American.

    April 13, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  18. Tom in Desoto, TX

    A racist "element"? That "element" is the core of the GOP

    April 13, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  19. Kenman

    NO COMMENTS on THIS liberal tripe!? What's going on?

    This is more of the outrageous liberal racism that they roll out at every challenging moment when they MIGHT have lead to accomplish something, they sink to these levels and gravel for irritated replies from the classless rabble-rousers in their uninformed liberal base!

    April 13, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  20. Gladdensnoot

    The DNC base also has racist elements animated by racism.

    April 13, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  21. I AM


    April 13, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  22. Hugh Harvey

    I don't doubt that the Republican Congress has mistreated Holder for racial reasons. However I aside from race, I find Holder somewhat less than truthful and less than a good AG for the whole country.

    April 13, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  23. Fred

    No amount of answers will satisfy the extremists..unless it fits their agenda. We are almost under American Taliban Control right here in the USA

    April 13, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  24. Atul C

    What do you call when one color votes 98% to a single party? That's racist.

    April 13, 2014 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  25. Lisa

    Republicans, the party or hate and racism!

    April 13, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
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