September 3rd, 2010
10:04 AM ET

Texas lawmaker admits mistake in scholarship scandal

CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - A veteran House representative from Texas said she made a mistake when she awarded charitable scholarships to her family members instead of students in her district.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, has been under fire recently, accused of breaking rules in giving the scholarships to relatives.

"I've acknowledged that I was negligent. I've acknowledged that I made a mistake," Johnson said during an interview on CNN's "AC 360" on Thursday.

Johnson is accused of awarding scholarship money to her grandsons, David and Kirk Johnson, as well as the children of her Dallas district director, Rod Givens, last year. Each of the relatives were awarded two scholarships in the past year.

Johnson is a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and is a former board member of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which gives each member $10,000 every year to award as scholarships to students in his or her district.

The scholarship money comes from tax-deductible charitable donations.

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soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Joyce Lively

    WOW what an interview. When the interviewer pulls information out of a interviewee that even shocks him you know it is a great-hard hitting event. I kept saying "I can't believe she didn't just hang up on him! Is she that clueless or so self deluded?" Leading her on questions and not giving up until she dug a hole so deep she can't get out of it. Friday night the original reporter (sorry I forgot the name) even said Anderson got her to say things she has never said before. My husband calls it muckraking in the best sense of the word. Anderson's interviews seem to be getting better and better. Keep this up so we can continue to chose who is telling the truth.
    Keep them honest!

    September 4, 2010 at 11:59 am |
  2. DLW

    Ethics? Long gone!

    And I agree with Jerry, the idea that these politicians can just declare responsibility for a "mistake" and "move forward" is getting old. Time to let them think it over in the Atlanta Federal Pen!

    September 4, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  3. Robert

    Wonderful job with this interview, thanks for not falling in line with her talking points. Maybe you should try to get tax cheat geitner or the property hiding rangle.. The people will be behind you if you intensly question guys like obama on the things he has said/done in the past and not let him get away with the same crap everytime. Try some questioning about Bill ayers and his real relationship with rev wright and other black liberation theologists who have called for redistribution of wealth from "whites". Please Mr. Cooper, Im sure theres a slot at Fox for you if CNN gets fed up with you giving tough interviews to liberal dems.

    September 4, 2010 at 11:44 am |
  4. Ron

    I'd like to commend you for the diligent way you pursued this case and your attempts to break through the stonewalling. Ms Johnson obviously is ethically clueless but politically very savvy about her corruption. Sadly, she seems to fit in very well with Charlie Rangel, Chris Dodd, Maxine Waters, and Alcee Hastings.
    I never thought I would see CNN critical of anything Democrat, so I salute you in your attempt to balance the coverage.

    September 4, 2010 at 11:16 am |
  5. Charles Ford

    What? no cries of racism and hate speech? I'm glad someone in CNN finally stood up and did the right thing holding a Dem accountable. Now if only MSNBC would dig deeper with the likes of Frank and Dodd. Fat chance.

    September 4, 2010 at 9:45 am |
  6. Jerry

    Very good interview, there should be more of this for ALL congressmen and the Whitehouse PS for the Hufington/Wash Post readers, I said ALL

    September 4, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  7. Pamela Boehr

    Bravo to Anderson for bringing this to light. I hope he'll continue to follow it and not allow it to get buried as the congress member wishes. Excellent reporting.

    September 4, 2010 at 3:59 am |
  8. NIck

    glad she done it whites have been getting favors like this forever

    September 4, 2010 at 2:26 am |
  9. taff

    Give it a break, Cooper. At least she did admit what she did was wrong! Which is more than most!

    September 4, 2010 at 1:25 am |
  10. michael shaw

    If you has taken full responsibility admit your fraud and step down.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
  11. Kat Nanton

    That woman is truly stupid if she thinks we don't see that she is lying. I sure do not trust her with taxpayers' money. She is a crook!

    September 3, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
  12. lela

    Ok Anderson get over it the lady said she was wrong she has paid the money back lets move on.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
  13. Saurabh

    Hilarious response to your question. 'How do you want me to answer this question?' 🙂

    September 3, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
  14. leo e. sanders

    Put this on cnn news. Digging deeper", Keepin then honest". John King,did you ever receive a scholarship? My white neighbor's daughter received all kinds of scholarships and had plenty of money. Dallas news should investigate everybody's scholarships. Whites have been getting millions in scholarships, when African-Americans received few scholarships or not any. Leo

    September 3, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
  15. Ruth

    She's either too dishonest or too stupid to hold office. Take your pick.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
  16. K Thomas

    This Congressperson is extraordinary! Nothing she said made her believable it is D.C. I understand and for me, sure processing the sound bite is possible. The truly horrifying and absolutely laser cutting truth. Glen Beck went to Lincoln. For what Beck did at Lincoln that day, what has been “reported” is simply not true. This Congresswoman and other Congressmen take advantage of grants for influence or to influence then lie or confuse.

    So many in our Nation – our World, making efforts to see past horrible racism the actions they inflicted upon another… these are slaps in the face. They do not make sense to these people. Our Nation has a group of people which sees this as a slap. Minorities who use minority status to abuse the system and to seek protection in the system.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  17. Joseph T. Black


    She knew.....Put the blame where it belongs......she was elected.....
    not her staff.....

    She is responsible.......

    September 3, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
  18. Sharon

    I hope you get to "interview" George Bush or Dick Cheney or any corporate CEOs that profited off laying off thousands of workers and made large profits even though their companies were profitable, or Larry Summers and Tim Geitner to explain why the economy is still in the toilet and grill them just as hard. Really? A week on this story? Give me a break.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  19. Aram Aghazarian

    Too bad Mr. Cooper isn't as prosecutorial with more powerful Washington elite as he was with Congresswoman Johnson.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
  20. Larry

    He's white the CBC is black therefore he is racially motivated, end of story

    September 3, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  21. Piper

    Do you have any idea how many forms I've signed without reading??

    September 3, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  22. Cary

    I didn't know you couldn't steal.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  23. Larry

    How many other members of 'special interest groups', not just the CBC, are without legislation preventing this fraudulant activity?

    September 3, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
  24. Jerry Hale

    "I've acknowledged that I was negligent. I've acknowledged that I made a mistake"

    This was not a mistake. A mistake is when you back your car into a trash can. This is corruption, plain and simple.

    And for all of the "I take full responsibility"s that I saw last night, my only response is "what does this mean?". Have we arrived at the point where if one is merely willing to say "I take full responsibility" we should all just move on and forget it.

    I've heard so many "I take full responsibility"s in the past few years that once I hear the phrase, what I now interpret it to mean is "yeah I did it, and I'm willing to wait a couple of news cycles for everybody to simply forget about it"

    September 3, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
  25. Pat Ramirez

    I am so disgusted with this story. I live in Texas and 2 of my children right now cannot attend college because we do not have the money to send them. This supposed representative of the people stole the dreams of our students who cannot attend college because our officials give the money to family and friends. What really goes beyond the pale is how easily she lies, excuses herself and wants it to go away. Unbelievable. The Texas ethics committees needs to bring charges against her. And after this interview, her grandchildren and the others who got this grant should be charged with fraud and theft. Right...right...they did not see the application even though they signed it...Excellent interview, Mr. Cooper, a real eye opener.

    September 3, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  26. alan ford

    Rep. Johnson should be impeached. Does she really think US regular folks are that stupid. These funds were purposly funnelled to her relitives with her knowing. First of all then how did they even know about the funds. Second they were out of state. Third she had no knowledge of the rules. Fourth How can she has no ethics. Fifth so what she paid it back. What about the students who legaly applied from her district and were turned down. She is so full of herself as are many other politicians on both the Democrats and Republicans. They think they are above the law, they take the American people for granted saying I'm sorry and paying back the funds will make it go away.... They should charge her and the people who received the funds with lying and corruption. Yet congress would rather waste tax payers money going after retired baseball players for nonsence. DAM I'm mad as hell and so should every American.

    September 3, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
  27. Sam

    As a retired military member, if I did this on active duty, I would have court marshaled, lost all my benefits, and sent to prison. I'm sure our elected officials would not be held to that same standard.

    September 3, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
  28. Denise

    I'm glad this woman is willing to own up and take responsibility for her actions but Anderson....she never really answered your question about how her grandkids were able to sign those forms. Makes me think she lying through her teeth.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  29. Jen

    Thank you Mr. Cooper!! This was an excellent, honest interview that represented the interests of your viewers. Well done!

    More of this, please!

    September 3, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  30. Brett Snow

    WOW. The absolute gall of this woman is simply incredible. She says she has accepted responsibility and wishes to move on, yet refuses to admit that it was outright theft and fraud by her and her relatives. For anybody who believes whites and blacks are different, this would be a real eye opener. Black women are just as capable of lying and stealing as any white member of the old boys network.

    September 3, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
  31. Merle Dunn

    I saw the interview with Anderson Cooper, apparently someone else
    besides her relatives & the staff relatives signed the scholarship forms, & someone else did all the things required to get the scholarship not the ones who actually got the scholarship. I live in
    the Dallas area, not in the Representatives area, but if she does not
    know what is going on in her own area then the voters for her area
    need to get her out of office as soon as they can. She does not seem
    to know her reponsibilities as a Representative from Texas, she is
    just enjoying the big salary, what other things are going on in her area
    that apparently she does not know about?

    September 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  32. Larry Hinson

    This is just another blatant example of the arrogance and sense of entitlement that infects many of today's politicians. Rather than admit the crime and take the punishment, they insult our intelligence and ask us to believe these were honest mistakes made while they were busy working for their constituents. The ground is littered with similar actions and excuses – Rangel, Jefferson, Murtha, and the list could go on. Fortunately, the voters of Texas' 30th Congressional District have an opportunity to help drain the swamp. They can take the control away from the investigative panels, commissions and other bodies and speak with their vote in November. No muss, no fuss, it will be simple. The country will be watching to see if they have finally had enough, or if they are going to simply write this off as "politics as usual."

    September 3, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  33. teresa, oh

    I dont think this is a rare occurence... especially in positions that have the authority to dish out money that isnt theirs. What happens to her now?

    In Ohio a few yrs. ago, a similar incident happened. The Commissioner, the Admin. Assist. to the Commissioner, and the lady dishing out the funds for college help all used money for their own families. : ) They too made a "mistake" and to the kids credit, some have paid back the monies. But if they didnt have the monies to pay for college in the first place, who REPAID the monies? lol ( story on Plain Dealer website)

    I give so much credit to the one voice, the lone whistleblower, who brings stories like these to light.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:29 am |
  34. Augsbee

    Mistake????!!!!!! Come on, she didn't know those kids??? She's not a dumb lady. She needs to resign Now!!!!! she needs to go and we need an investigation/audit as to who else she gave monies to that shouldn't have been given monies to or if she spend those monies on herself.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:14 am |