Rep. Andre Carson, Indiana Democrat, swung back Friday at Jewish Republicans calling for him and other Congressional Black Caucus members to resign over their association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
The Republican Jewish Coalition called last week for seven caucus members to step down for meeting with Mr. Farrakhan, describing him as the “moral equivalent of a leader of the KKK” for his virulent anti-Semitic rhetoric, but Mr. Carson attacked the group’s credibility.
“That organization doesn’t have any credibility with me. I know they have a political agenda,” Mr. Carson said in an interview with Fox59 in Indianapolis.
At the same time, Mr. Carson acknowledged that he has met with Mr. Farrakhan, and condemned anti-Semitism without denouncing the Nation of Islam leader.
“I have met with him as other members of the Black Caucus have met with him, talking about anti-crime efforts, discrimination against women, and those kinds of things,” said Mr. Carson. “But I condemn any form of discrimination and I’ve been consistent.”
He added, “My record has shown that I’ve spoken out against anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, all of the phobias.”
Indianapolis radio talk-show host Tony Katz, who has also called on Mr. Carson to resign, accused the congressman of attempting to divert attention from his Farrakhan link by impugning the coalition’s reputation.
“This deflection, and dismissing of concern about Farrakhan, exposes an ugly reality: Andre Carson is telling America and Indianapolis voters that the RJC has no credibility, but Louis Farrakhan does,” said Mr. Katz in a post on the website for WIBC-FM. “He’s not calling out Farrakhan, he’s defending him as a leader worthy of support; his, and the support of the Congressional Black Caucus.”
Mr. Carson also criticized the RJC for failing to denounce Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over allegations of discrimination.
“The Congressional Black Caucus is asking that organization to condemn Benjamin Netanyahu and the government for discriminating against Africans who are migrating, who are fleeing dictatorships, who are fleeing oppression,” said Mr. Carson. “There’s a great deal of bigotry and racism happening right now they fail to condemn.”
Mr. Katz slammed the comparison. “What does Netanyahu and African migration have to do with having dinner with an anti-Semite and a bigot? Nothing, of course,” Mr. Katz said.
“And how, with a straight face, do you say you’re opposed to discrimination and then - in the same breath! - say you’re working with a bigot like Farrakhan on discrimination issues?” he asked.
Their links to Mr. Farrakhan have recently come back to haunt progressives such as Women’s March president Tamika D. Mallory, who came under fire after attending a Feb. 25 speech at which he blasted “the Satanic Jew.”
Caucus members, including Democratic National Committee deputy chair Keith Ellison, have also been criticized for attending a 2013 dinner hosted by the Iranian government for Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, but Mr. Carson said he wasn’t there.
“I have met with him as have other members of the Black Caucus, but there was another meeting with the Iranian president,” said Mr. Carson. “I was not there. The organization that put it together put my name on it as they do other members without asking us, and that’s how that confusion happened.”
Mr. Ellison said in a statement last month that he attended the dinner but didn’t realize Mr. Farrakhan would be there, adding, “As always, I disavow anti-Semitism and bigotry in all of its forms.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition said that seven Democrats “are known to have embraced Farrakhan” by participating in “personal meetings,” listing Democratic Reps. Danny Davis, Al Green, Barbara Lee, Gregory Meeks and Maxine Waters, as well as Mr. Carson and Mr. Ellison.
“Anti-Semitism is unacceptable. Farrakhan is the moral equivalent of a leader of the KKK. If it was discovered that members of Congress had met with the leader of the KKK, they would need to resign,” said the coalition.
The statement was issued shortly after a Tuesday report in the Daily Caller saying that the seven have attended meetings with Mr. Farrakhan while in Congress.
“In this case, for meeting with, and embracing, Louis Farrakhan, nothing short of resignation is acceptable from these seven Democrats,” the coalition said.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Democrat, denounced Mr. Farrakhan for his anti-Semitism in a Thursday statement while also condemning those “trying to score political points over this issue.”