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
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
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.
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?"
| July 2, 1984
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."
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
site is an educational parody of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition