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Clinton Supporter Apologizes to Obama

By Garance Franke-Ruta
Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson took to CNN this afternoon to make public his apology to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama over remarks Johnson had made Sunday in Columbia, S.C., that were widely interpreted as a none-too-subtle attempt to make sport of Obama's teenage drug use.

"Sometimes in campaigns you get carried away in your zeal to support your candidate. And you say things that are inappropriate and not proper for a campaign that should be based on the issues," said Johnson in a phone interview with Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room." "And that is why I issued this personal apology to Senator Obama, I know Senator Obama. I have a great deal of respect for him. And I'm glad that his campaign has responded and accepted the apology."

Obama wrote openly about his teen years, including his use of "pot" and "blow," in a mid-90s Bildungsroman that became a national best seller after he ascended to the senate. Obama's book was written during the memoir boom of the early- to-mid-90s and has been critically acclaimed for its examination of race and the quest for individual identity in America. It has also, over the past year, become a source of repeated, though generally minor, controversy for his campaign.

On Sunday, during a campaign swing through South Carolina with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Johnson had said: "As an African American, I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues, when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood, that I won't say what he was doing in the neighborhood but he said it in his say these two people would denigrate the accomplishments of civil rights marchers."

The Obama campaign promptly condemned Johnson's remarks - which were themselves made in defense of earlier Clinton comments to which supporters of Obama were objecting, about the relative roles of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Pres. Lyndon Johnson in passing the Voting Rights Act of 1964 -- and Bob Johnson at first said that he meant only to refer to Obama's time as a community organizer, also discussed in great detail in his book.

That explanation was widely dismissed by observers, however, in light of earlier remarks in New Hampshire by Billy Shaheen, husband of former N.H. governor Jeanne Shaheen, and Clinton's one-time N.H. state co-chair. Shaheen resigned from his role with the Clinton campaign after suggesting Obama would be attacked by Republicans for his past openness, should he be the Democratic nominee. As first reported by The Trail, Shaheen said, "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'....There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."

Johnson, in the short letter of apology to Obama, wrote: "I'm writing to apologize to you and your family personally for the uncalled-for comments I made at a recent Clinton event. In my zeal to support Senator Clinton, I made some very inappropriate remarks for which I am truly sorry. I hope that you will accept this apology. Good luck on the campaign trail."

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 17, 2008; 6:55 PM ET
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Pure clinton formula politics. Johnson should be ashamed of himself. To knowingly lie, lie about lying, lie about the lie about lying. issue a phony apology and lie about your intentions and sincerity.

Posted by: jade_7243 | January 19, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

If Hillary gets in we will just have another lying, manipulative, two-faced Clinton in the White House. For God's sake, just what has she really done? I'm sick and tired of her "35 years of experience" mantra being pushed with no one challenging her to show what she is truly responsible for having enacted that is of any importance at all. Bill totally "soiled" the image of the
American presidency and Hillary stood by him when he did it. If she didn't know he was a serial womanizer, then according to my friends from
Arkansas she is the only person from that state who didn't know about him. He's an embarrassment, and she is a pathetic enabler of Bill's actions.

Posted by: john44 | January 18, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Win or lose in this 2008 election, my entire Fil-Am family and some friends will be for Sen. Clinton because with the slow but sure death of our economy right now, we firmly believed that she could do a repeat of the robust economy we had during the time of her husband.

Posted by: manuel1547 | January 18, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Bob Johnson's mea culpa doesn't come close satisfying the ingredients of a perfect political apology to Obama. The Clinton campaign could have turned yet another misstep to their advantage by formally apologizing as well, as they did following similar comments by Bill Shaheen -- a former Clinton campaign official who resigned after raising similar concerns about Obama's drug use. Clinton probably gained support by handling the first apology well, but will no doubt lose much more support by blowing it this time. Bother Johnson and the Clinton campaign should consider at least some of the advice offered here


Posted by: pfg | January 18, 2008 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Yes, yes -- very magnanimous of Mr. Johnson to apologize. Four days later. After first issuing a denial. And after surely getting his arm twisted by the the Clinton campaign (whose leader incorrectly claimed that he had already apologized during the Nevada debate).

Posted by: RyanMcC1 | January 18, 2008 1:17 AM | Report abuse

Well that apology is something - it admits he went over the line. Anyone can get carried away, I respect someone who can stand up and take responsibility.

Posted by: JayKay2 | January 18, 2008 12:26 AM | Report abuse

IIn the spirit of JakeD):

Are we sure that George W. Bush wasn't drinking when he waged war with Iraq? Why hasn't he simply come forward and denied it? He's on record as having had a nasty drinking problem and, if this published report is to be believed, he started drinking again:

Posted by: RyanMcC1 | January 18, 2008 12:14 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I've been retired for a while now -- your opinion of my logic notwithstanding -- hope you had fun picking up your fiancée though : )

Posted by: JakeD | January 17, 2008 11:17 PM | Report abuse

So, you went to law school, but didn't learn anything about logic and can't put together a decent argument? Maybe the Wild Turkey comment was right.

And now I'm done. I have to go pick up my fiancée, and rest assured that you that you will be the furthest thing from my mind once we get home. Good luck with your *ahem* law practice.

Posted by: troublesleeping | January 17, 2008 10:46 PM | Report abuse

P.S. (maybe you are asleep by now, but if not): George W. Bush indeed denied using cocaine after 1974 -- look it up if you don't believe me -- will Obama give us the SAME info, or not? Then he can answer "Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?"

Posted by: JakeD | January 17, 2008 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Yes, "Innocent until proven guilty" does ring a bell -- I think I remember something about that way back in law school -- it's been so long ago though . . .

Posted by: JakeD | January 17, 2008 10:37 PM | Report abuse


You may not be the one on record admitting substance abuse, but you are on record here as the person behind some absurd, incendiary, and generally ignorant remarks.

Bush did cocaine (not to mention being "on record" getting busted for DUI). Bill Clinton smoked pot (but was too incompetent to do it correctly). Both danced around the issue and did not confront it directly. Obama not only admitted it and confronted it directly, but has worked to help make sure kids don't make the same mistakes he did when he was a kid.

This makes him MORE, not less, qualified, than either of our previous two presidents on this issue.

Further, your absurd insinuation that Obama is *still* doing cocaine proves that you have absolutely no understanding of logic (you are asking us to "prove a negative," which is very bad form, as anyone who had a proper education would know) or of the laws on which our country is founded. "Innocent until proven guilty" ring any bells?

But your deliberate SHOUTED use of his middle name really tells everyone with a brain viewing this page exactly what type of person you are.

Game. Set. Match.

Posted by: troublesleeping | January 17, 2008 10:28 PM | Report abuse

When Obama was asked about the behavior of his staff, he promptly took responsibility and issued a hind and foresight warning to those tempted to play nasty.

Well as usual Clinton would not even face the fact that her aide was lying, unless "community organizer" is a dirty word to the Clintons.

Whatever good the Clintons may offer, America is sick and tired of their lies, contempt and dynastic pride.

Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton tried, tired, flawed, and failed

Posted by: FebM | January 17, 2008 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Very funny, pachyder -- I'm not the one on the recorded admitting substance abuse here -- are you saying it is IMPOSSIBLE that Barack Hussein Obama is still doing cocaine?

Posted by: JakeD | January 17, 2008 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Hey JakeD
Go slam yourself another bottle of Wild Turkey and think that one over real hard...

Posted by: pachyder | January 17, 2008 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Clinton modus operandi : Smear loud, half-assed apology soft. Despicable.

Posted by: pachyder | January 17, 2008 9:05 PM | Report abuse


Possibly -- regardless, wouldn't it be easy to simply say "I haven't used cocaine since ____" (fill in the year, just like Bush had to do) -- BTW: have you ever seen that movie "The Manchurian Candidate"?

Posted by: JakeD | January 17, 2008 7:32 PM | Report abuse

You might want to make this headline more specific, as this has happened once or twice, you know.

Posted by: atomic.sigep | January 17, 2008 7:22 PM | Report abuse

And this potential drug use has something to do with the fact that his middle name is Hussein?

Posted by: th | January 17, 2008 7:13 PM | Report abuse

There's no apology needed -- Barack HUSSEIN Obama has yet to tell us when the last time he used cocaine was -- he's admitted to abusing drugs in high school, but as far as I know, he's never said: "I haven't used drugs since."

Posted by: JakeD | January 17, 2008 7:05 PM | Report abuse

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