Holder says no ‘racial component’ in comments about Congress at Sharpton gathering

Font Size:

Attorney General Eric Holder says he was referring to the lack of civility in Washington, not racial division when he highlighted his treatment at the House Judiciary Committee during a speech before Al Sharpton’s National Action Network last week.

“I didn’t say there was a racial component. I was very careful not to say that,” Holder told The Huffington Post.

Speaking before the civil rights group, Holder strayed from his prepared remarks to comment on the relatively testy exchanges he had while testifying before the House Judiciary Committee.

“I’m pleased to note the last five years have been defined by significant strides and by lasting reforms even in the face, even in the face of unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive adversity,” He said before the NAN. “If you don’t believe that, you look at the way, forget about me, forget about me. You look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a House committee, has nothing to do with me, forget that. 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?”

While there was much speculation that Holder was alluding to racial divisions, Holder told The Huffington Post his intent was to highlight the current lack of civility in the nation’s capital.

“I think what we have seen is kind of a breakdown in civility in Washington, D.C., and that becomes important because I think it has substantive impact,” Holder told the liberal publication. “We are celebrating the 50th anniversary passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. If we had a Congress or an executive branch-legislative branch relationship in the way that we now have one, where there’s this lack of civility, I wonder whether or not you could have forged the necessary compromises, things that involved personal relationships, in order to get such a landmark piece of legislation passed.”

“And that’s essentially what I was decrying, the fact that we can’t somehow separate whatever our personal feelings are and focus on our functions as members of the executive branch or as legislators. I think that I’ve done a pretty good job in doing that, but it’s frustrating at times,” Holder said.

He added that — during one of his more heated exchanges with Texas Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert — he had not originally planned to mock the congressman at the end of his questioning but that Gohmert’s “asparagus” remark has “sort of stuck” in his head.

“I’m still not quite sure I understand it,” Holder told The Huffington Post.

Follow Caroline on Twitter