On Saturday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) — a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination — refused to rule out meeting with Louis Farrakhan, the notorious anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam. This seems rather curious, since Booker vilified former vice president and current 2020 frontrunner Joe Biden for extending civility toward Democratic segregationists in the 1970s.
Even the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which often weaponizes civil rights issues against conservatives and Republicans, has vilified Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. The Anti-Defamation League compiled a video of his horrific anti-Semitism. Last year, Farrakhan compared Jews to termites. This year, he claimed Jesus Christ died in order to bring about the end of Jewish civilization.
“Are you familiar with Minister Louis Farrakhan?” a man asked Booker at a campaign event on Saturday. “My question was ‘would you be willing to have avoidance with him concerning his anti-Semitism?'”
Booker, the former mayor of Newark, N.J., would not pledge to avoid Farrakhan. “I live in Newark./ We have famous Mosque 25, we have Nation of Islam there,” he began. “As mayor I met with lots of folks [from different] walks of life. I’ve heard Minister Farrakhan’s speeches for a lot of my life.”
As for meeting with the notorious anti-Semite, the 2020 candidate said he did not consider it necessary, but would not rule out such a meeting. “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 and hear what they have to say,” he added.
“But I live in a neighborhood where I’m getting guys on the streets offering and selling his works. I’m very familiar with Minister Louis Farrakhan and his beliefs,” Booker concluded.
So, Booker claims to be “familiar” with Farrakhan’s beliefs — but would not condemn him. Ostensibly, this Democratic candidate is familiar with Farrakhan comparing Jews to termites and saying Jesus died to bring an end to Jewish civilization. Yet he has no words against such vile hatred?
This seems particularly remarkable, given Booker’s swift condemnation of Biden last week. The former vice president had recalled a bygone era of civility in politics, where politicians could work together, even with avowed segregationists like Sen.s James O. Eastland (D-Miss.) and Herman E. Talmadge (D-Ga.). Biden promised to bring back this kind of civility in dealing with Republicans if he were to be elected president.
“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys.’ Men like James O. Eastland used words like that, and the racist policies that accompanied them, to perpetuate white supremacy and strip black Americans of their very humanity,” Booker said in a statement responding to Biden’s remarks. He characterized the former vice president’s statements as “praising segregationist senators.”
“Vice President Biden’s relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people, and for everyone,” Booker added. “I have to tell Vice President Biden, as someone I respect, that he is wrong for using his relationships with Eastland and Talmadge as examples of how to bring our country together.”
“And frankly, I’m disappointed he hasn’t issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans. He should,” Booker concluded.
— Kevin Robillard (@Robillard) June 19, 2019
So, according to Cory Booker, Biden’s support for civility — not agreement but vociferous disagreement in a civil manner — toward Democrat segregationists in the 1970s is unpalatable and requires an apology, but when it comes to meeting with Louis Farrakhan, Booker says, “I’m not one of these people that says I wouldn’t sit down with anybody and hear what they have to say.”
This is a despicable and illogical contradiction. In one breath, the New Jersey senator says he would dictate that no one should meet with segregationists, but in the next he says he wouldn’t rule out meeting with anybody — in an effort to make Farrakhan palatable.
Booker is not the first major Democratic candidate to be open to meeting with Farrakhan. At least six leading Democrats have been pictured with the notorious anti-Semite, including former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton (see the photos here).
Not only is Booker’s willingness to meet with this anti-Semite disgusting, but his hypocrisy is also noxious. Biden need not apologize for supporting civility, but the New Jersey senator very much owes American Jews an apology.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.