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Time Magazine | March 12, 1984

Belatedly, Jackson Comes Clean

But his moral crusade loses luster because of ethnic slurs

It was more a test of morality than politics. For more than a week, the Rev. Jesse Jackson flunked. When asked whether he had referred to Jews as "Hymie" and to New York City as "Hymietown," Jackson said over and over, "I have no recollection." But at a Manchester synagogue two days before the New Hampshire primary, Jackson finally admitted making the offensive comments. "In private talks we sometimes let our guard down and become thoughtless," he explained. "It was not in a spirit of meanness, but an off-color remark having no bearing on religion or politics. However innocent and unintended, it was insensitive and wrong."

By that time, Jackson's moral crusade on behalf of the nation's have-nots had lost a good deal of its luster. Appearing dejected and distracted, the normally upbeat Jackson stumped listlessly through New Hampshire in the closing days of the campaign and finished in a tie for fourth, with only 5% of the vote.

Jackson did not help his cause in an interview with Ted Koppel on ABC's Nightline. "I've listened to many Jews say, looking at the Holocaust, that they went to the gas chambers much too silently," Jackson said. He was trying to draw a parallel with the persecution and deaths of blacks since slavery days; like Jews, he said, blacks were vowing "never again." His remarks were taken by some listeners, however, as criticism of supposed Jewish meekness in the face of Nazi terror.

Jackson's problems with the Jewish community grew when Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, issued an ultimatum to Jewish leaders last week. Referring to Jackson, who was appearing with him at a Chicago rally, Farrakhan declared: "If you harm this brother, I warn you in the name of Allah this will be the last one you harm. Leave this servant of God alone." Founded in 1930, the radical organization boasted a following of 500,000 in the 1960's but has dwindled to fewer than 100,000. Lately it has moderated its earlier antiwhite views.

Jackson's defenders noted that he has been the target of harassment throughout the campaign. A group called Jews Against Jackson, an offshoot of the radical Jewish Defense League that has been disavowed by leaders of most Jewish organizations, pledged publicly to disrupt his candidacy. Two of its members were arrested for interrupting his announcement speech on Nov. 3 in Washington, D.C. A window in Jackson's New Hampshire campaign headquarters in Manchester was smashed, and his campaign offices in Garden Grove, Calif., were fire bombed. Jackson's life has been threatened.

As he took his campaign into the South for the crucial primaries in Alabama, Georgia and Florida on March 13, Jackson occasionally struck a martyr's pose. The fact is, however, that as America's first major black presidential candidate, he has sometimes benefited from a troubling lack of press and public scrutiny. Wrote Washington Post Columnist Mark Shields in an apt commentary: "For uttering ethnic or racial references far less offensive than those allegedly made by candidate Jackson, other politicians have been hounded by camera crews and microphones and harangued by their political opponents. Why the double standard for a presidential candidate who happens to be black?"

Time Magazine | July 2, 1984

Farrakhan Fulminations

He is a bit player who will not get offstage. Minister Louis Farrakhan, the black-separtist leader of the Nation of Islam movement and a supporter of Jesse Jackson, has threatened a black newspaper reporter with death and called Hitler a "great man," albeit a "wicked" one. His latest provocation is to embrace Muammar Gaddafi. After returning from a visit with the Libyan dictator this month, Farrakhan reportedly told a congregation in Boston, "America, you should be ashamed of yourself... It is you who are the outlaw. How can a leader of a little country like Libya terrorize the world?" He told the Boston Herald, "Since is is not divinely backed... the state of Israel is an outlaw state."

Minister Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam.

Farrakhan's outrageous statements have been roundly denounced by liberal leaders. "We cannot pretend we do not see or hear when Louis Farrakhan predicts race war by 1986," said Senator Edward Kennedy in an eloquent speech a fortnight ago on the dangerous rifts that have come between Jews and blacks. " Such conduct can never be condoned and it must be unequivocally condemned." Civil Rights Leader Bayard Rustin called on Jackson to repudiate Farrakhan. George McGovern last week asked how Jackson could "swallow a self-evident anti-Semitic bigot and life threatening bully such as Louis Farrakhan."

Jackson, who curtly dismisses questions about Farrakhan these days, has gradually distanced himself from the leader of the small (estimated 10,000 members) Black Muslim sect. Eleven weeks ago Jackson demoted Farrakhan from "surrogate" to "supporter," and the two men have not appeared on the same platform since. Nonetheless, Nation of Islam bodyguards still appear at Jackson rallies, and they served as security on a recent impromtu trip to Tijuana, Mexico. By failing to repudiate Farrakhan and his inflammatory rhetoric, Jackson continues to raise questions about his claim to be a conciliator and peacemaker

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