Hillary Clinton Endorsement Exposes Divide Among Black Democrats

Lawmaker says Congressional Black Caucus backed Sanders with too little input.

ByABC News
February 11, 2016, 4:49 PM

— -- The political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus formally endorsed Hillary Clinton today, a move that quickly came under fire from one of the few lawmakers on Capitol Hill supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential bid.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of two members of Congress to endorse Sanders, claimed today that leaders of the CBC's political action committee made the decision to back Clinton without the input of the larger Congressional Black Caucus.

A spokesman for the CBC declined to respond to Ellison's comments about the endorsement process and input, but said the decision to endorse Clinton was not made hastily, pointing to Clinton's support among the majority of caucus members.

Lawmakers said the decision to back Clinton was decided in a near-unanimous vote by the PAC's 19-member executive board. (No members of the board voted for Sanders. Two members -- Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and political consultant Angela Rye -- abstained from voting.)

In their endorsement, the black Democrats pledged to help Clinton campaign in South Carolina before that state’s crucial Democratic primary later this month. In 2008, more than half of the Democratic primary voters in South Carolina were African-American.

“You judge a person by their results, and there’s no question that the person who has obtained the most results is Hillary Clinton,” Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., said.

The endorsement comes as Clinton's campaign looks to regain its footing after the former secretary of state's devastating loss to Sen. Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and its political action committee praised Clinton’s record, calling her the best-positioned advocate for African-Americans while questioning Sanders’ record in Congress on the issues of gun control and civil rights.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., dismissed Sanders’ civil rights record when asked about his work organizing for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Chicago.

“I never saw him, I never met him,” Lewis said.

Asked about the appeal of Sanders’ message to young voters, Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., said they need to do their homework.

“You can't just listen to what someone is telling you, because most of the time when it's too good to be true, it's too good to be true,” Richmond said. “When you start saying free college and free health care, the only thing you're leaving out is free car and a free home.”

Before South Carolina's primary, Sanders has gained some notable black supporters, including singer Harry Belafonte, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and former NAACP chairman Ben Jealous. On Wednesday, he met with the Rev. Al Sharpton in New York City.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the third-ranking House Democrat, is reconsidering his pledge to remain neutral in the presidential primary. He said he will discuss an endorsement with close family and friends. He told reporters on Wednesday the Congressional Black Caucus PAC's endorsement wouldn't influence his decision on an endorsement.