Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Women’s March co-President Tamika D. Mallory have come under fire this month for failing to condemn Louis Farrakhan after revelations that they met with or appeared at events with the notorious anti-Semite.
The Republican Jewish Coalition has called on eight black lawmakers to resign over their Farrakhan association. Not all have commented, but those doing so have been careful to denounce anti-Semitism without condemning the Nation of Islam leader himself.
Is that enough? Not for the Anti-Defamation League, which called it “disturbing to see people of good conscience and character meeting with this individual whose worldview is so warped and tainted by anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.”
“We hope that political leaders will reject meetings with him in the future and denounce him for the bigot he really is,” the ADL said in a statement.
For Democrats, the Farrakhan flap threatens to fray the progressive coalition in Congress by exacerbating tensions with Jewish voters already worried about the party’s direction as anti-Israel movements such as Boycott, Divest and Sanctions gain steam on the left.
Liberal Jews who have joined anti-Trump rallies sponsored by the Women’s March have been taken aback by revelations over the group’s links to Mr. Farrakhan, including social media photos showing him holding hands with Ms. Mallory and board member Carmen Perez.
“Many progressive Jews have reacted with shock to the Farrakhan adoration from leaders of the Women’s March,” said Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson. “That Farrakhan connection, however, has been public and unapologetic for years.”
Even before Mr. Farrakhan gave a shout-out to Ms. Mallory at his Feb. 25 Saviours’ Day speech, the Women’s March had been accused of anti-Semitism through its link to convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh, who has been embraced by Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour.
“Rather than treating the alignment of the Women’s March leaders with a notorious anti-Semite as an aberration, progressive Jews need to ask themselves whether it reflects a deeper anti-Semitism in the progressive world, masquerading as anti-Zionism,” said Mr. Jacobson, who runs the conservative Legal Insurrection blog.
RNC blasts ‘hateful eight’
The uproar also has touched off scrutiny of the relationship between the Nation of Islam and the black political establishment, which can be traced to 1984, when Mr. Farrakhan rushed to defend Jesse Jackson in the Democratic presidential primary after he was reamed for calling New York “Hymietown.”
“Farrakhan’s defense of Jackson, which many black voters felt was unfairly maligned and taken out of context, helped establish his reputation as someone who, right or wrong, would not cave to the white establishment,” Adam Serwer said in an Atlantic article headlined “Why Tamika Mallory Won’t Condemn Farrakhan.”
In a statement, Ms. Mallory said she had been attending Farrakhan events since she was a child and that “it was the women of the Nation of Islam who supported me and I have always held them close to my heart for that reason.”
Some hailed Mr. Farrakhan as a hero for leading the 1995 Million Man March, a rally on the National Mall aimed at uniting black men and promoting self-reliance against economic and social ills.
The result is that Mr. Farrakhan, 84, has apparently become politically untouchable in some pockets despite repeatedly denouncing Jews in public, including during his Feb. 25 Saviours’ Day speech in which he blasted “the Satanic Jew” and said that “powerful Jews are my enemy.”
Even the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center has listed the Nation of Islam as a “hate group” and condemned Mr. Farrakhan’s tirades against “wicked Jews” and gays.
“The black community has been entirely uncertain about what to do about Louis Farrakhan since 1984,” said Arthur J. Magida, author of “Prophet of Rage: A Life of Louis Farrakhan and His Nation.”
“He’s seen as this guy who says what needs to be said, when in fact what he is saying is a total falsehood,” said Mr. Magida. “But you can’t counter him because he has such a following. Even those who don’t follow the Nation of Islam see him as a powerful black man who has possibly helped their community.”
Indeed, the Nation of Islam is often credited with helping fight the drug scourge and strengthening black neighborhoods, although Mr. Magida said Mr. Farrakhan’s accomplishments have been overstated.
“In reality, he has done almost nothing for black America,” said Mr. Magida. “The Nation of Islam, under Elijah Muhammed at least, had certain economic programs that marginally helped African-Americans. He has done nothing to help African-Americans economically, socially, educationally, intellectually.”
In politics, however, where perception is often reality, black leaders who renounce Mr. Farrakhan may pay a political price if they are seen as kowtowing to outside pressure.
“If you do renounce him, are you then seen as an Uncle Tom?” asked Mr. Magida.
Meanwhile, Mr. Farrakhan is the gift who keeps on giving for Republicans eager to bring Jewish voters into the fold.
The Republican National Committee issued a press release Tuesday detailing the links between Mr. Farrakhan and the eight Black Caucus members, dubbing them “the hateful eight.”
A video taken at a 2006 caucus event showed Mr. Farrakhan hugging and shaking hands with several Democratic members of Congress, including Reps. Al Green of Texas, Barbara Lee of California and Maxine Waters of California.
Assistant Minority Leader James E. Clyburn of South Carolina — the House’s third-ranking Democrat — shared a stage with him in 2011, and Rep. Andre Carson, Indiana Democrat, acknowledged Friday that he had met with Mr. Farrakhan.
Mr. Carson condemned anti-Semitism in a local television interview without mentioning Mr. Farrakhan and lashed out at the Republican Jewish Coalition, saying “that organization doesn’t have any credibility with me.”
Democratic National Committee Deputy Chairman Keith Ellison has taken heat for reports linking him to Mr. Farrakhan after 1995, despite saying he has had no relationship with him since the Million Man March.
Even President Obama was pulled into the fray after a long-suppressed 2005 photo surfaced showing him with Mr. Farrakhan at a caucus gathering. Mr. Obama has not commented publicly on the photo.
Rep. Danny Davis, Illinois Democrat, came under fire last week after acknowledging he had met on many occasions with Mr. Farrakhan. He told The Daily Caller that he regarded him as “an outstanding human being” and that “the world is so much bigger than Farrakhan and the Jewish question.”
Mr. Davis later issued a statement saying, “I reject, condemn and oppose Minister Farrakhan’s views and remarks regarding the Jewish people and the Jewish religion.”
Ms. Lee has condemned “Minister Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic and hateful comments,” and Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, New York Democrat, said, “Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic messages are upsetting & unacceptable.”
That’s not quite the same as denouncing Mr. Farrakhan, said Alex Siegel, deputy executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
“It is not sufficient to condemn anti-Semitism without condemning the nation’s leading anti-Semite,” Mr. Siegel said. “If members of Congress met with David Duke and then refused to condemn him, they would have been forced to resign long ago. The right moral action is for the Farrakhan members to resign.”