Colin Powell Still Sees 'Dark Vein' of Intolerance in GOP

Former secretary of state says despite progress, "there's a long way to go."

ByABC News
March 8, 2015, 12:33 PM

— -- Speaking on the day following the 50-year anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, Alabama, the first African-American Secretary of State Colin Powell said he still sees a "dark vein" of intolerance in the Republican Party, echoing comments that he made in 2013.

"I still see it. I still see it in the Republican Party and I still see it in other parts of our country. You don't have to be a Republican to be touched by this dark vein," Powell told ABC's George Stephanopoulos Sunday on "This Week."

"We've come a long way, but there's a long way to go. And we have to change the hearts and minds of Americans. And I see progress, especially in the younger generation," Powell added.

President Obama, along with former President George W. Bush, was in Selma Saturday to mark the anniversary of the seminal moment in the civil rights movement. They were joined by Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, who was brutally beaten during the march out of Selma that day in 1965.

"What that bloody Sunday event did for the nation was to hold up a mirror in front of all Americans and said, 'Look, this is what's going on in this country. This cannot continue,'" Powell said.

Powell also echoed one of the theme's of Obama's speech in Selma, noting that while progress has been made on race relations, the "march is not yet over."

"We've made enormous progress. If we hadn't made progress, [President Obama] wouldn't have been standing there, Eric Holder wouldn't have been with him and I wouldn't be here right now," Powell said.

"But we still now have hurdles that we have to get over," Powell added, noting the battle in some states over voter identification laws.

The former secretary of state also weighed in on the Justice Department report released this week that found systemic discrimination against African-Americans by the police department in Ferguson, Missouri.

Powell said he was "shocked" by the report, but was not taken completely off guard.

"I was shocked but not that surprised, frankly, George. I know these things have existed in other parts of our country. This shouldn't have been that great a surprise to any of us. But it's not throughout the country," Powell said.

During the interview on "This Week," Powell declined to comment directly on the controversy that has engulfed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following revelations she used a private email account while she headed the State Department.

"I can't speak to Mrs. Clinton and what she should do now. That would be inappropriate," said Powell, who helped modernize the State Department through new computers and early use of e-mail during his time as secretary of state.

"In order to change the culture, to change the brainware, as I call it, I started using it in order to get everybody to use it, so we could be a 21st century institution and not a 19th century," Powell said of his own e-mail practices. "But I retained none of those e-mails and we are working with the State Department to see if there's anything else they want to discuss with me about those e-mails."