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July 3, 2019 6:01 am

Why Is Cory Booker Open to Meeting with Louis Farrakhan?

avatar by Josh Eibelman

Opinion

Senator Cory Booker. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

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

Biden was wrong when he refused to apologize for his comments, even after many — Booker included — called on him to do so.

But Booker was also wrong, when at a faith breakfast in Columbia, South Carolina, he indicated a willingness to meet with Farrakhan. Booker displayed an obvious double standard in fighting bigotry, and also an unacceptable level of tolerance for antisemitism in the United States.

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

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“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.”

But how can that also include Louis Farrakhan?

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 “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 LGBT 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.”

Not only did Senator Booker not condemn Farrakhan’s antisemitism and homophobia outright and in undeniable terms; he didn’t 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. But Booker refused to say what those beliefs and values are.

Farrakhan also revealed his anti-democratic values in a speech at a rally in Newark in December 2004: “’Democracy’ is ‘the rule of the people,’ but what kind of people? It’s the very opposite of theocracy. It’s the rule of a devil. … The enemy is plotting, through democracy, to make the whole world submit to so-called democratic values.”

Though Booker has maintained good ties with the Jewish community, it is both shocking and worrying that he failed to unequivocally condemn such hatred of Jews, gays, and democratic values. The fact that he left open the possibility of meeting with Farrakhan is even more concerning. This is especially true given the Senator’s tough standards for other candidates, whom he is quick to condemn as apologists for racism.

As a candidate for president, Cory Booker must denounce Louis Farrakhan’s hateful rhetoric, and fight against antisemitism, homophobia, and discrimination in all its forms.

Josh Eibelman is a student at Cornell University, where he studies biology and psychology.

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