More than a week after Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan delivered a blistering speech in Chicago in which he said “powerful Jews are my enemy” and “white folks are going down,” calls are growing louder for Democratic leaders and Women’s March founders with ties to denounce him or step down.
Among those in the line of fire are several members of Congress and Women’s March co-chairwoman Tamika Mallory, who attended the Nation of Islam’s national convention late last month, There, Farrakhan delivered the controversial address and Mallory, who has expressed admiration for him in the past, posted Instagram photos from the Chicago event.
“Here’s the problem: Farrakhan does have an audience and still has widespread popularity among his devoted followers,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in a blog published on Thursday. “Because of Farrakhan’s reach and influence and his broad name recognition and something like celebrity status, some public officials, politicians and hip-hop entertainers are still willing to meet with him, still willing to have their pictures taken with him.
"They seemingly have a blind spot when it comes to his anti-Semitism,” he added.
President Obama was recently criticized when a photograph of him with Farrakhan, taken before his 2008 election, surfaced. The photographer said he buried the picture on orders from tthe Congressional Black Caucus, which believed it would hurt Obama's election chances.
Seven members of the Congressional Black Caucus have had ties with Farrakhan, according to The Daily Caller, which said it had reviewed videos and witness accounts to create the tally.
California Reps. Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee, Illinois Rep. Danny Davis, Indiana Rep. Andre Carson, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, New York Rep. Gregory Meeks and Texas Rep. Al Green have all attended meetings with Farrakhan while in Congress, according to photos, videos and witness accounts of the meetings reviewed by the news outlet.
The report prompted the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) to call on all seven House Democrats to resign.
In an effort to defuse the outrage, Mallory defended herself on social media as being against all types of bigotry.
“This is a thread. It seems I am not being clear,” she tweeted. “I am and always have been against all forms of racism. I am committed to ending anti-black racism, antisemitism, homophobia & transphobia. This is why I helped create an intersectional movement to bring groups together.”
But Mallory continues to face criticism from conservatives and liberals alike, some of whom are calling out her and members of the Congressional Black Caucus who have participated in functions featuring Farrakhan over the years.
Farrakhan has long expressed controversial views about Jews and whites, and has spoken of black separatism. In an interview featured on the Final Call website, which is run by the Nation of Islam, Farrakhan said, "This is the time in history for the separation of black people in America, indigenous people, from the whites of that nation."
Rep. Keith Ellison, deputy director of the Democratic National Committee, has said that at one time he saw the Nation of Islam as an organization that did positive things, like “promote African-American self-sufficiency, personal responsibility and community economic development.” Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, has said he had erroneously dismissed concerns that Farrakhan was anti-Semitic, and said he never shared the "hateful views” of “Jews, gays or any other group.”
Ellison recently came under fire after The Wall Street Journal reported he had attended a 2013 meeting with Muslim leaders where Farrakhan was present. Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, said he did not know who would be at the meeting, and said his decision to attend “was not an endorsement of the political views of other attendees.”
On Tuesday, Ellison spokesman Karthik Ganapathy told Fox News that the lawmaker "has repeatedly disavowed anti-Semitism and bigotry, since his first campaign for Congress in 2006.”
Rep. Danny Davis, a Democrat from Illinois, said in an interview with The Daily Caller on Sunday that Farrakhan is an “outstanding human being,” and that he sees the minister on a regular basis.
Davis’ office later released a statement denouncing anti-Semitism as being “antithetical to everything I believe and everything that I work for on a daily basis.”
Apart from Ellison, others either have said they do not share Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic views but have stopped short of denouncing the Nation of Islam leader. Some have remained silent altogether.
In a statement to Fox News, the ADL said, "We are deeply disappointed with Congressman Davis statements about Farrakhan, an avowed anti-Semite who leads a group that traffics in hate not just towards Jews but also the LGBTQ community.”
“It is unfortunate that the congressman apparently can’t muster up the courage to denounce Farrakhan’s blatant anti-Semitism and instead chose to praise him instead. Hate should not be difficult to denounce. Once again we’re calling on the congressman to denounce anti-Semitism and all forms of hate.”
Calls and emails to the Nation of Islam, the Congressional Black Caucus and Mallory received no response.