Six degrees of Louis Farrakhan

by Henry Farrell on January 15, 2008

I started to write a snarky post about this “Richard Cohen”: article and then gave up. It’s too bad a piece to warrant flipness. Cohen finds out (he doesn’t say how, but this has been circulating around the “nastier right wing websites”: for a little while) that a magazine associated with Barack Obama’s church in Chicago, and run by his pastor, honoured Louis Farrakhan last year. He then insists that Barack Obama immediately express his outrage.

It’s important to state right off that nothing in Obama’s record suggests he harbors anti-Semitic views or agrees with Wright when it comes to Farrakhan. Instead, as Obama’s top campaign aide, David Axelrod, points out, Obama often has said that he and his minister sometimes disagree. Farrakhan, Axelrod told me, is one of those instances. … But … given who the parishioner is, … could be the next American president. Where is his sense of outrage? … I don’t for a moment think that Obama shares Wright’s views on Farrakhan. But the rap on Obama is that he is a fog of a man. We know little about him, and, for all my admiration of him, I wonder about his mettle. … This time, though, “present” will not do.

Indeed, there’s nothing in Obama’s record to suggest he is an anti-Semite. Nor, for that matter, is there anything in Richard Cohen’s record to suggest that he gets his jollies watching Mickey Kaus blow goats. And while Farrakhan is undoubtedly a nasty piece of work, why is it Obama in particular who needs to condemn him? That Obama’s pastor has praised him doesn’t really cut it as a rationale – church leaders and spiritual mentors can believe and say a lot of bizarre shit that you don’t yourself subscribe to (as a mostly lapsed Catholic, I speak from experience on this point).

More specifically (to take a not-so-random example), Billy Graham, who made some unambiguously anti-Semitic remarks to Richard Nixon which ended up on tape, appears to have been a major figure in “Hillary Clinton’s spiritual life”:,8599,1650798,00.html (see also “this speech”: made by Bill Clinton at the inauguration of Graham’s library last year). While nowhere close to Farrakhan’s league (he appears to have been a repentant and occasional anti-Semite rather than an unrepentant and consistent one), he was a direct influence on the Clintons rather than an influence-on-an-influence. I don’t recall Richard Cohen, or anyone else, muttering that there was no evidence that Hillary and Bill Clinton were anti-Semites, but that they needed to voice their outrage or else. And for good reason; any suggestion along these lines would have been treated as crazy. Knowing that Billy Graham was occasionally anti-Semitic doesn’t tell you anything about what Bill and Hillary Clinton believe.

There’s something else going on here. I strongly suspect that Barack Obama is being asked to condemn Louis Farrakhan not because there’s some bogus two-degrees-of-separation thing going on, but because Barack Obama is black, and because black politicians are supposed to condemn Louis Farrakhan before they can be trusted. This isn’t racism, but it’s an implicit double standard, under which black politicians have a higher hurdle to jump before they deserve public trust than white ones. More generally, this is a bad, wrongheaded, and even dangerous article. Richard Cohen shouldn’t have written it, and the _Washington Post_ shouldn’t have printed it.

{ 4 trackbacks }

Richard Cohen: Bad for the Jews « The Edge of the American West
01.15.08 at 7:07 pm
Jewschool » Blog Archive » I’m not saying Richard Cohen is a douchebag or anything…
01.15.08 at 8:18 pm
Richard Cohen on Obama’s church | Sam Levenback
01.16.08 at 4:24 am
Confronting Obama with a ‘Farrakhan Test’ « Uppity Negro Network
01.17.08 at 11:21 pm



Karl Steel 01.15.08 at 3:02 pm

But if Richard Cohen hadn’t written it, he wouldn’t be Richard Cohen.


John Protevi 01.15.08 at 3:11 pm

I see Cohen is setting Obama up for a “Will-you-condemn-a-thon”. If Obama gives in here, he’ll never be able to stop before he recites the Catalogue of Contempt in its entirety, without omission.


Barry 01.15.08 at 3:16 pm

Cohen’s standard (for Scooter Libby, and not in display during the 1990’s) was that crimes were ordinary politics, which reporters shouldn’t cover.

To me, that was the recitation of the anti-Apostle’s Creed for reporters.

Cohen belongs with Kaus, whose possible goat, um, ‘servicing’ Cohen has *still* not denounced.


Rich B. 01.15.08 at 3:22 pm

Pope Benedict has condoned Galileo’s trial for heresy. Perhaps we should make all Catholic politicians publically denounce the Pope before they can run for office.


Hidari 01.15.08 at 3:25 pm

*cough* Jerry Falwell Bush *cough*


MR. Bill 01.15.08 at 3:37 pm

Oh my god. Cohen is awful, and here is a link to the Libby column that gave him the distinction of calling it “..not an entirely trivial matter since government officials should not lie to grand juries, but neither should they be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics. As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off.”

Ah the Washington Post, turning out the lights for all of us.
This latest is just silly, as we could by the same standards make Cohen give his opinion on every G. Will or C. Krauthammer column ever written…


Katherine 01.15.08 at 4:07 pm

More than just because he’s black, it seems to me that this plays into the insidious attempts by some wingnuts to play Muslim confusion games – via use of the Hussein part of Obama’s name. After all, everyone knows that those dastardly Muslims are all anti-semitic. Perhaps I’m being particularly conspiracy theorist about it.


Michael Pugliese 01.15.08 at 4:21 pm

Manning Marable, tool of the ADL? “Farrakhan’s conservative social and economic agenda finds parallels with Larouche’s fascist program…”


keith 01.15.08 at 4:22 pm

I understand your distaste for articles like Cohen’s, but I wonder whether you’re too quick to dismiss it. The information revealed and brought to the forefront by the article might, it is true be abused, but it does at least seem relevant to the discussion of who we should select as our next president. David Bernstein over at Volokh Conspiracy has had some nice posts on why the Farrakhan issue does matter:
While I might not agree with everything he says and I’m sure you don’t he does put a different and I think reasonable spin on things.


Michael Pugliese 01.15.08 at 4:27 pm

Another Black Leftist on Fascist Farrakhan,
Ebony and ivory fascists – Patrick Buchanan; Louis Farrakhan – Class Notes – Column
Progressive, The, April, 1996 by Adolph Reed, Jr.
Reed doesn’t take sheeit from no one either.


Steve LaBonne 01.15.08 at 4:38 pm

There’s nothing in Richard Cohen’s record to suggest that he’s a professional journalist.

This isn’t racism

Why isn’t it? If an “implicit double standard” and “higher hurdle” for black politicians isn’t racism, then what meaning does the word racism have at all?


Matt Weiner 01.15.08 at 5:00 pm

Mike Huckabee has himself praised John Hagee, who is arguably as odious as Farrakhan, and spoken at his church. And the most Huckabee has done to distance himself from Hagee is to say they don’t agree on some things. Cohen, though to be fair he has attacked Huckabee for religious intolerance, hasn’t ever mentioned John Hagee in his column. Yet Hagee would seem to be much more relevant to the campaign than Farrakhan, since he actually has a relationship to a candidate.


lemuel pitkin 01.15.08 at 5:02 pm

I’m with Labonne. Henry is giving Cohen far too much benefit of the doubt here.


Colin Danby 01.15.08 at 5:08 pm


Michael Pugliese 01.15.08 at 5:17 pm

What did Farrakhan ever say that was anti-semitic?
Posted by wellbasically | January 15, 2008 11:56 AM

Louis Armstrong, “If ‘ya gotta ask, you ain’t ever gonna know.”
Good lord. See
Black Leadership (Chap. 11 “Black Fundamentalism: Louis Farrakhan and the Politics of Conservative Black Nationalism”) by Manning Marable.
The Farrakhan Phenomenon: Race, Reaction, and the Paranoid Style in American Politics
by Robert Singh.
In the Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam
by Mattias Gardell

Gardell also has written about the white Far Right.


Michael Pugliese 01.15.08 at 5:18 pm

What is with Alex Cockburn praising Huckabee?
Snort, nevermind.


seth edenbaum 01.15.08 at 5:20 pm

“While nowhere close to Farrakhan’s league”

and what league is that?


hilal 01.15.08 at 5:28 pm

Barack shouldn’t waste his time entertaining some guy’s paranoia and conspiratorial whispers. He shouldn’t have to pass someone’s or some group’s litmus test; and if this Cohen has a problem with Obama, then he should cast his vote in kind.


Henry 01.15.08 at 5:34 pm

I should have been clearer in what I was saying. There are at least two kinds of racism – (1) a personal animus towards black/white/Jewish people, and (2) the kinds of practices people talk about when they refer to institutionalized racism (e.g., effectively requiring people of different races to adhere to different standards). I’d be very surprised if Cohen is guilty of the first, but I think that there is a strong case to be made that he’s guilty of the second.


lemuel pitkin 01.15.08 at 5:34 pm

So Pugliese, you going to tell us what any of those books actually say on the topic?


lemuel pitkin 01.15.08 at 5:37 pm


Thanks for the clarification. I think, tho, that the first (ridiculously restrictive) definition is pretty much always entirely unhelpful. It’s quite possible that there are no racists in American politics by that standard. Many of the most ferocious defenders of white supremacy in this country have not felt any personal animus toward blacks and often had quite intimate relations with them.


Matt Weiner 01.15.08 at 5:41 pm

Michael Pugliese seems to be cross-posting a bunch of comments from Yglesias to this thread. Since no one is defending Farrakhan on this thread, they’re totally off-topic here. I wouldn’t try to engage him until he actually engages the discussion here.


Slocum 01.15.08 at 5:45 pm

Don’t really care about Richard Cohen one way or the other, but I do think of Farrakhan as being closer to a David Duke than a Billy Graham, and I’d certainly want answers from any candidate who attended a church that honored David Duke.

And then there’s ‘Black Liberation Theology’ in general — it’s certainly not an outlook I’m looking for in a presidential candidate, and I think questions about it are reasonable for Obama to answer. Especially given that this is not a hierarchical denomination that he grew up in, but rather a non-hierarchical congregation he joined as an adult.

As one with libertarian sympathies who’s up in that ’empty quarter’ in the upper right of the election compass from a few days ago, it’s a given that any mainstream candidate I vote for will be pretty far away on many issues. But Farrakhan is kind of a deal-breaker.

I expect though, we will see a ‘Sister Souljah’ Moment’ on all this from Obama — but just not until after the South Carolina primary at least.


lemuel pitkin 01.15.08 at 5:46 pm

I mean, a definition of “racism” by which you can

– Refuse to hire blacks on the assumption that they are likely to be underqualified;

– Have a strong preference for racially segregated neighborhoods;

– Believe that blacks are inherently and significantly less intelligent than whites;

– Support policing practices that explicitly and deliberately single out black men;

– Assume that successful blacks probably did not succeed on their own merits but through some form racial preference;

and not be a racist — well, it’s not just not a helpful definition, it isn’t really a definition of racism at all.

And yet while millions of white Americans fit those five criteria, the vast majority could honestly say they feel no “personal animus” toward blacks. Many have black friends or acquaintances; almost all admire black entertainers. “Some of their best friends” might even be black. So a definition of racism based on personal animus misses pretty much the entire phenomenon of racism in the US.

This isn’t so much a criticism of you personally as of the incredibly stupid way we talk about race in this country. But letting Cohen off the hook here is giving in to that stupidity; let’s not.


CJColucci 01.15.08 at 5:47 pm

We uaed to see this in NYC all the time when David Dinkins was mayor, and when Jesse Jackson was relevant. They were treated like America’s Official Negroes, and were expected, for reasons never articulated, to issue ritual denunciations of any black whack-job anyone cared to publicize, however unconnected with Dinkins or Jackson. I hope Obama can figure a way out of this trap, because it’s tiresome.


Mrs Tilton 01.15.08 at 5:53 pm

Keith @9,

[Blpapp — snrztt — gkk gkk gkk]

(Sorry, seeing you put “David Bernstein” and “reasonable” in the same paragraph made my eyes spasm for a moment.)

Some of Volokh’s conspirators occasionally write things that are interesting and worth reading. I don’t think Bernstein has ever done so in his life.


seth edenbaum 01.15.08 at 6:18 pm

“Since no one is defending Farrakhan on this thread.”

” but I do think of Farrakhan as being closer to a David Duke than a Billy Graham…”

I’m not defending Farrakhan but the level of ignorance here is annoying. Read the link I posted above and do some research. What’s next, links to the “gutter religion” bullshit?


Grand Moff Texan 01.15.08 at 6:33 pm

Richard Cohen’s wife went regularly to a certain hairdresser, which she may or may not have known to have kept certain … unsavory magazines in the back …


CDH 01.15.08 at 7:55 pm

I used to like Richard Cohen but some time ago, I think it was right after 9/11 but cannot really pinpoint it, he started writing columns that I thought seemed completely driven by his pro-Israel views. He reminds me often of Senator Lieberman, who is quite progressive on almost all issues except those dealing with the Middle East. I would read this column in that vein.


fjg 01.15.08 at 8:18 pm

Yes, Professor Farrell, that’s all very well, but I have reason to believe you may be an academic. I therefore refuse to pay attention to your argument until you denounce Ward Churchill to my satisfaction.


mcc 01.15.08 at 8:20 pm

I strongly suspect that Barack Obama is being asked to condemn Louis Farrakhan not because there’s some bogus two-degrees-of-separation thing going on, but because Barack Obama is black, and because black politicians are supposed to condemn Louis Farrakhan before they can be trusted

Well, it looks like Obama delivered on that count. Now that the ritual is complete, now what?


SadOldVet 01.15.08 at 8:22 pm

Cohen is employed by the Washington Post.

Judith Miller was employed by the Washington Post.

Judith Miller was a shill for war for the Bush admin.

Therefore, Cohen is a shill for war for the Bush admin!

Same logic…


Joe Nose 01.15.08 at 8:30 pm

Farrakhan disapeared after 911 for quite sometime. Its safe to come out now, because bowing to the East is the new go West young man. I love this country, but what a bunch of pacifistic pussy’s we have become due to forced fed Tollerance. Lets all listen to some Eclectic music and relate to piss ants from a third world nation shall we.


Uncle Kvetch 01.15.08 at 8:44 pm

Billy Graham […] appears to have been a major figure in Hillary Clinton’s spiritual life

He’s also been said to have provided the impetus for George W. Bush to quit drinking. I wouldn’t expect to hear much about that from Cohen, either.


Bill R. 01.15.08 at 8:47 pm

This is all well and good, but I need to know: what is Obama’s position on Michael Vick? And does he think O.J. is innocent or guilty? These are all relevant campaign issues.


Russ 01.15.08 at 8:47 pm

Richard Cohen has been at this for 21 years, dating back to one of the first issues of the Washington Post Magazine in which he posited shopowners who do not allow blacks under the age of 30ish to shop in their stores are absolutely being prudent. He followed up with a defense of that column, then proceeded to wax poetic on women dressing like prostitutes. The women bashing was while he was in the middle of a sexual harrassment issue with (drumroll please) a black woman.

Perhaps Dick Cohen doesn’t like male goats after all…


Henry P Wallace 01.15.08 at 9:05 pm

I bet Jeremiah Wright supported Bill Clinton at one point. Wouldn’t it be an awkward moment if Clinton were called upon to denounce Wright? How do you think that would play out?

This is just nuts. I intentionally keep company with people who’s opinions vary from mine–sometimes they vary dramatically. It’s alot more interesting and it keeps me on my toes.


low-tech cyclist 01.15.08 at 9:22 pm

It’s funny how this “you must denounce so-and-so” game never seems to apply to Republicans and the crazies they hang with.

So since Richard Cohen is a good Jewish boy, some advice from Deuteronomy:

Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.


Barry 01.15.08 at 9:46 pm

“He’s also been said to have provided the impetus for George W. Bush to quit drinking. ”

Another mark against Billy Graham. With W as a drunk in Texas, the world would have suffered a megadeath less in direct kills, and probably a trillion or so in looting and destruction.


Grand Moff Texan 01.15.08 at 10:07 pm

There’s been some juicy trolling to be had over at Big Media Matt’s today on this one.

Everywhere else? Pretty much treating it as the joke it is.

Oh, and Obama just dissed Farrakhan, so the idiots will have to grasp at different straws, now.


lemuel pitkin 01.15.08 at 10:49 pm

The column Russ mentions is here (via Atrios). His position is quite clear: it is perfectly acceptable for stores to refuse service to younger black men.

Again, to Henry and anyone else who says “this isn’t racism”: If you don’t think Cohen is a racist then you just don’t think racism exists and you should come out and say so.


Goober 01.15.08 at 11:05 pm

??? Judith Miller was employed by the Washington Post. ???
Is this some kind of “they all look alike anyway” joke?


Barry 01.15.08 at 11:08 pm

“Well, it looks like Obama delivered on that count. Now that the ritual is complete, now what?”

Posted by mcc

Well, has Obama denounced him *emough*? Long enough, loud enough, vigorously enough?

What about tomorrow? Will Obama denounce him then, or just let the matter drop?

What about the day after tomorrow?


Walt 01.15.08 at 11:21 pm

I followed the link in the second comment, and I was a little disappointed there wasn’t an actual Catalogue of Contempt.


idlemind 01.15.08 at 11:28 pm

There’s been some juicy trolling to be had over at Big Media Matt’s today on this one.

Well, given that Steve Sailer chimed in early, how could you expect anything else? As night follows day…


blah 01.16.08 at 12:01 am

I strongly suspect that Barack Obama is being asked to condemn Louis Farrakhan because Cohen knows that this could be very damaging to Obama’s campaign. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Cohen did this as a favor to the Clintons at a crucial moment in the campaign. It introduces some potent FUD into the campaign, questioning Obama’s judgment and electability at the same time. Of course there is a racial element to this, since many white and black voters will have questioned Obama’s electability and any association with Farrakhan cannot help. People are being naive if they don’t think this will hurt Obama.


Papadave 01.16.08 at 12:36 am

IF (and it’s a capital letter BIG if) the idea is that a black politician must expres outrage about Farrakhan to be credible – while no white politician has to express outrage about any white anti-semite (David Duke?) to be credible – then this is racism, pure and unadulterated.


Slocum 01.16.08 at 1:20 am

People are being naive if they don’t think this will hurt Obama.

It might hurt him with black voters in South Carolina, but it should help in the general election. Which is why I cynically expected to hear this comment from Obama later. So kudos to Obama for not taking the most politically expedient route.


Steve Sailer 01.16.08 at 5:36 am

Clearly, nobody here has read Obama’s 1995 autobiography “Dreams from My Father.” If you had read pages 274-295, which are mostly about the origin of Obama’s relationship with Wright in the mid 1980s, you would know that Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. is not some minor figure in Obama’s life. He is the most important man in Obama’s life since his grandfather who raised him in Hawaii.


yoyo 01.16.08 at 7:32 am

I can’t wait for a decade or two to pass and we can make everyone denounce anyone who ever handshook one of the homophobe politicians currently running around.


luci 01.16.08 at 8:12 am

I agree with katherine, way above – it’s might be more of a “Muslim” thing than a black thing. Black militant Muslim, Obama.

I think Cohen is a joke, as is the Washington Post. And it’s not just the lying propagandist f#@ks on the editorial pages either, unfortunately. We need to discount almost everything they say, at least when it comes to foreign policy and the Middle East.

I don’t really know why people were so sure that the media was treating Hillary unfairly a week or two ago. Hillary is their candidate. She’s made the right hawk noises. Of course, the press can’t resist the catty little digs at her, but she’s still their candidate.


Barry 01.16.08 at 1:09 pm

blah: “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Cohen did this as a favor to the Clintons at a crucial moment in the campaign”

Not as a favor to them, but as a favor to himself. Cohen is one of the hacks drooling at the prospect of a second Clinton administration, knowing that they can recycle all of the sh*t which wasn’t even fit to print the first time.

Who wouldn’t like a shot at 4-8 years of xeroxing your old work and getting paid big bucks for it?


Michael Bérubé 01.16.08 at 2:05 pm

This is all well and good, but I need to know: what is Obama’s position on Michael Vick? And does he think O.J. is innocent or guilty? These are all relevant campaign issues.

The Obama campaign has now released statements denouncing Vick and O.J. Remarkably, however, the candidate remains silent on “Cop Killer,” the recent rap song by “Iced Tea” that calls for the murder of police officers.


John Protevi 01.16.08 at 4:10 pm

Remarkably, however, the candidate remains silent on “Cop Killer,” the recent rap song by “Iced Tea” that calls for the murder of police officers.

Nor has he, despite having visited Johns Hopkins University, made any comment on the Lancet articles.


lemuel pitkin 01.16.08 at 4:17 pm

Henry (and other CTers), I seriously suggest you prophylactically ban Sailer now rather than waiting til after he’s wrecked a dozen threads with his vile racist bullshit.


Walt 01.16.08 at 4:38 pm

You are a funny man for a supervillain, Berube.


Roy Belmont 01.16.08 at 11:04 pm

HenryFarrell- There are at least two kinds of racism – (1) a personal animus towards black/white/Jewish people…
More accurate to say each racist sentiment is unique to its bearer. Some inherited, some traumatically induced, some fashionable, some cathartic, some sadistic.
Cohen probably doesn’t have an itemizable animus in the public record because he lives and works and plays inside a fortress of security and filtered contacts. So he doesn’t encounter any blacks who haven’t been so thoroughly vetted by his social clads and their doormen and gatekeepers they might as well be brought fettered and chained into propriety.
If he did, if he lived at the edge or inside one of the parallel worlds where most American blacks are living today, his chauvinist-driven racism would be much easier to graph. Art Speigelman did a nifty bit back in the 90’s about his dad’s anti-black racism (“Dem schwartzers!”)that illustrates that pretty well.
All this yadda about Farrakhan is part and parcel of the one true sword of public morality now – triangulation. Same with David Duke a while back. Everybody knows these are evil men, though the specifics of their evil don’t get much confirmation, arriving as it does ready-made and established. Talking stink about Ward Churchill with basically only one out of context phrase to bolster smug complacency is the academist’s version.
Public, official, sanctioned racism’s waxing and waning of acceptability is interesting if condemnatory – anti-Japanese hysteria during WW2 etc. We were all thinking we’d out grown that, weren’t we? Until 9/11 changed everything back again.
Cohen and his brothers-in-arms have produced a disgustingly unchallenged flood of anti-Muslim bigotry over the last decade or so, and the mediated American public has taken that bigotry into its bosom as its own.


Jeffrey Abelson 01.17.08 at 3:08 am

Here’s what I wrote about it at The Warpublican Review:

“Be it Mike Huckabee’s visit to Anti-Catholic Cornerstone Church, John McCain’s “gook” gaffe, Fred Thompson’s relationship with former senator (and Macaca Master) George Allen or Ron Paul’s racist and ranting Paulisms, there are many denouncements and explanations to be made, though only Obama pays the price.

The attention that Warpublicans have paid to Obama’s church and its leader Jeremiah Wright, and the concerted effort to connect Louis Farrakhan to the Obama campaign, reeks of a double standard and political intrigue, if not a low-grade racism, intended or not.”


JLL 01.18.08 at 1:42 am

Now I’m curious as to why does someone’s pro-ness mean that they’re anti anything. Just because I’m pro-black doesn’t mean that I’m anti-white, anti-Semitic or anti any other ethinic group. It seems to me that if someone dare speak against, be it founded or unfounded claims, Jewish people then it is considered some form of hate and we quickly hear from the Anti-Defamation League who’s issued a statement against this person. BUT, when someone allows a slip of a tongue, such as about the sportscaster who suggested that the other players “lynch Tiger Woods in a back alley” then everyone is up in arms saying that Jesse Jackson et. al. is race baiting?

It appears to me that there is DEFINITELY a double standard. If you speak against whites, Jews or anyone else who has a substantially fairer skin tone, then its considered a hate crime. But, if you speak against African Americans, Latinos or any of the darker people of the world, then its protected by freedom of speech.

I just don’t get it.


Tom Doyle 01.18.08 at 11:30 am

On Oct. 5, 2000, the following article appeared on the website of the Media Research Council, (which appears to criticize the media from a right wing perspective) in Media Reality Check, (described, on its masthead as “A Weekly Report of Major News Stories Distorted or Ignored)

Lieberman Respects Farrakhan: No Story?-After Eight Days, Most of the Press Still Missing, Despite Question to Clinton, Fox’s Grilling of Daley

On September 27, eight days ago, the first press reports revealed that Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman said he would be willing to meet with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has called Judaism, Lieberman’s faith, a “gutter religion.”

In an interview with April Ryan of the American Urban Radio Networks, Lieberman said, “Look, Minister Farrakhan said a few things earlier in the campaign that were just not informed. But I have respect for him, and I have respect for the Muslim community generally.”

Where’s the furor? The story first came on Wednesday from the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jodi Enda and hit the Knight-Ridder national wire. USA Today mentioned it. Ryan questioned President Clinton about it in a briefing aired live on CNN. Clinton seemed surprised: “I didn’t understand. What did you say about Joe Lieberman and Louis Farrakhan?” When Ryan explained that “Joe Lieberman told me yesterday” that he would meet with Farrakhan, Clinton only said, “Well, if anybody has got the standing to do it, he certainly does.”

That night, Ryan appeared on Fox’s O’Reilly Factor. Host Bill O’Reilly asked if she challenged Lieberman on his statement. She said yes: “He said, but it’s time for us to come together. And he’s trying to win. That’s basically what it is. He wants to win an election and the African-American vote is crucial.”

Last Thursday, the story was picked up by UPI and the Associated Press in the tenth paragraph of a story on the upcoming “Million Family March.” On Friday, the Anti-Defamation League, whose earlier criticism of Lieberman for religious talk on the stump drew all-network coverage, warned Lieberman would be “legitimizing a bigot.”

It hit television on Sunday. On NBC’s Meet the Press, Tim Russert asked Rick Lazio if he’d meet with Farrakhan. (He said no.) On Fox News Sunday, Tony Snow asked Gore campaign chairman Bill Daley about Lieberman. “Does he do that with the Vice President’s blessing?” Daley said no, “Joe makes those decisions on his own. He obviously doesn’t have to get approval from Al Gore to have meetings.”

On Monday, AP reported its first full story on Lieberman’s remarks, based on criticism from RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson. On Tuesday, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote about it, concluding, “It would be hard now for Lieberman to repudiate Farrakhan, but it would be harder still for us to respect someone who will not.”

But now, eight days in, let’s list who is still missing on this story: The New York Times. The Los Angeles Times. The Washington Post news pages. Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report. CBS. CNN’s newscasts. NBC’s newscasts. ABC arrived this morning. Are the media being tough on both sides? Can a press corps that celebrated Lieberman’s faith now ignore it? — Tim Graham


Tom Doyle 01.18.08 at 1:13 pm

September 26, 2000

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Joseph Lieberman said Tuesday he was willing to meet Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who has been criticized for anti-Semitic remarks and has questioned the Democratic vice presidential nominee’s loyalty.

Lieberman [said] an interview he respected Farrakhan and was open to meeting with him to promote reconciliation in the United States.

[Lieberman]… came under fire from Farrakhan in August, when … the controversial black leader …questioned whether Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, might be more loyal to Israel to the United States.

Asked if he was willing to meet Farrakhan, Lieberman told the radio network: “I am very open to that.”

“Minister Farrakhan has said a few things, including earlier in the campaign, that I thought were just not informed but, you know, I have respect for him and I have respect for the Muslim community generally,” Lieberman said.

“I’d be open to sitting and talking to Minister Farrakhan. It hasn’t sort of come together yet but I look forward to it,” he added. “This is a time to try to knit the country together more and to make us, as (Vice President) Al Gore always says, the more perfect union that our founders dreamed of.”

Lieberman said he would like to meet before the “Million Family March” Farrakhan is organizing in Washington on Oct. 16, the fifth anniversary of the Million Man March aimed at empowering black men.

Farrakhan has often been criticized for his strident rhetoric, which includes calling whites “devils,” referring to Jewish, Arab and Asian businessmen in black communities as “bloodsuckers” and denouncing the pope as “the anti-Christ.”

Lieberman said he admired Farrakhan for his efforts to register voters ahead of the Nov. 7 election…Asked if he would like to meet before the “Million Family March,” Lieberman said: “I’d like to do that. I think that’s a great idea.

“I look at anything that anybody does to get people to register and to vote (as) really at the heart of what the democracy is about,” he added. “So I admire what Minister Farrakhan is doing there.”

He also said he was not bothered by any criticism he gets for such a meeting, saying his wife Hadassah often jokes about his stubbornness when he decides to do something.

“She says … Joe listens but he gets stubborn when he decides he wants to do something, he does it,” Lieberman said. “That’s the way I feel about this. By my nature I’m an optimist and I’m a bridge builder and that’s what this is all about.”

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