Democratic candidates Booker and Biden should do more to denounce bigotry in U.S.

Both Biden and Booker must denounce racism, antisemitism, homophobia, and discrimination in all their forms, and pledge to do better and fight for equality for all.

By JOSH EIBELMAN
June 29, 2019 22:28
3 minute read.
Sen. Cory Booker, left, passes by former Vice President Joe Biden, South Carolina, U.S., 2019.

Sen. Cory Booker, left, passes by former Vice President Joe Biden, South Carolina, U.S., June 21, 2019.. (photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)

Days after criticizing Joe Biden for saying he worked with segregationists in the Senate with “some civility,” fellow Democratic presidential nominee Cory Booker said he would be open to meeting Louis Farrakhan, a man the Anti-Defamation League has termed “one of the leading antisemites in the United States.”

Biden’s comments, which included – “I was in a caucus with [segregationist Senator] James O. Eastland. He never called me “boy” – were wrong, and undoubtedly hurtful to the African-American community. Biden was also wrong when he refused to apologize after many, Booker included, called on him to apologize.

But Booker, too, in his willingness to meet with Louis expressed not only an obvious double standard in fighting bigotry, but also an unacceptable level of tolerance for antisemitism in the United States.

“I live in Newark, so we have famous Mosque 25, we have Nation of Islam there,” Booker said Saturday at a campaign event in Nevada in response to an audience member’s question.

“As mayor I met with lots of folks talking to him. I have heard Minister Farrakhan’s speeches for a lot of my life, so I don’t feel like I need to do that, but I’m not one of these people that says I wouldn’t sit down with anybody to hear what they have to say.”

Louis Farrakhan has a long history of rabid antisemitic and homophobic bigotry. In a February 2018 Saviour’s Day Speech, Farrakhan, who is head of the Nation of Islam told his congregants that “the powerful Jews are my enemy,” and that “Satan is going down. Farrakhan has pulled the cover of the eyes of the satanic Jew and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through. You good Jews better separate because the satanic ones will take you to hell with them because that’s where they are headed.”

Farrakhan has accused Jews of being responsible for the slave trade in the United States, and controlling the media, government, and Hollywood. In an October 2012 address he said, “Jews and some gentiles control the banking industry, international banks. They do! In Washington right next to the Holocaust Museum is the Federal Reserve where they print the money. Is that an accident?”

Farrakhan also rails against the LGBTQ community. In a February 2006 speech he said, “It’s the wicked Jews, the false Jews that are promoting Lesbianism, homosexuality. It’s wicked Jews, false Jews that make it a crime for you to preach the word of God, then they call you homophobic.”

Biden was wrong in recalling segregationist politicians in a positive, nostalgic light. It is important to note, though, that Biden had qualified his statement by saying “we in fact detested what they stood for in terms of segregation and all the rest.” Booker, on the other hand, not only did not condemn Farrakhan’s antisemitism and homophobia, he did not even acknowledge it.

“I live in a neighborhood where I’m getting guys on the streets offering and selling his works. I am very familiar with Minister Louis Farrakhan and his beliefs and his values,” Booker told the audience member.

Though Booker has maintained good ties with the Jewish community as senator from New Jersey, it is both shocking and worrying that he failed to unequivocally condemn such a rabid antisemite as Louis Farrakhan, especially given his tough standards on speech that can be perceived as apologetic to racism.

Joe Biden was wrong to paint segregationists in a (if only slightly) positive light, though his broader message about interparty cooperation was correct. Why Booker refused to denounce hatred of Jews is an even bigger mystery. Both Biden and Booker must denounce racism, antisemitism, homophobia, and discrimination in all their forms, and pledge to do better and fight for equality for all.

Josh Eibelman is a senior at Cornell University and a freelance writer.


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