DALLAS (May. 3)
The perturbing issue of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s refusal to repudiate the support of Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan continued to spark the debates between the three Democratic Presidential aspirants last night.
In the latest round, nationally televised from Grapevine, Tex., former Vice President Walter Mondale and Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado took Jackson to task for his equivocal position on Farrakhan who threatened the life of Black reporter Milton Coleman for revealing anti-Semitic remarks by Jackson and who, on another occasion, referred to Hitler as a “great man.”
Jackson retorted, as he has in earlier confrontations, that it was sufficient for him to “disassociate” himself from Farrakhan’s remarks but that he would not personally “repudiate” Farrakhan who heads a Black Moslem sect known as The Nation of Islam. Jackson referred to New Testament scriptural sources to justify his position.
REJECTS CIVIL RIGHTS PANEL’S REQUEST
Earlier yesterday, Jackson rejected as a “political diversion” a request by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to repudiate Farrakhan. The request came after President Reagan issued a letter, also at the Commission’s behest, disassociating himself from the Ku Klux Klan and declaring that it and other hate groups have no place in American political life.
But Reagan, who was visiting China at the time, did not respond to the specific request by the Commission’s vice chairman, Morris Abram, that he repudiate the endorsement of his candidacy by Imperial Wizard Bill Wllkinson, leader of the Louisiana-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Jackson dismissed the Commission’s appeal to him as “not a moral appeal … not redemptive, it was punitive, it was political … a diversion away from the issues of substance in the campaign.”
At last night’s debate, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, moderator Sander Vanocur of ABC News introduced the Jackson-Farrakhan issue when he asked Jackson, “I wonder how you think Dr. Martin Luther King would’ve responded to Louis Farrakhan’s message of threats to violence, racism and religious hatred?”
Jackson replied: “A spirit of redemption, as opposed to punishment.” According to Jackson, the late Dr. King’s approach was derived from the message of Jesus, “Those without sin, throw the first stone.”
Jackson added, “Moral leadership is known not for purity and perfection but for redemption. We must have the capacity, the moral capacity, to reach out and make room for people, to revive, to forgive, to move on … I disassociated myself from the (Farrakhan’s) message but not the messenger and there is a distinct difference…”
He also insisted that Farrakhan’s death threat to Coleman — and his implied threat of violence against Jews if they harmed Jackson after Coleman disclosed his reference to Jews as “Hymies” and to New York City as “Hymietown” — should be seen “within the context of the apocolyptic message of the Islamic religion.”
MONDALE: FARRAKHAN’S STATEMENT WAS ‘POISON’
Mondale interjected at that point, “I really thought what Farrakhan said was poison. And I thought
When Jackson accused Mondale of being “self-righteous” because he does not believe in capital punishment yet is condemning a man “who you say has simply threatened to kill somebody,” Mondale replied, “I don’t think it’s self-righteous to repudiate a statement that threatens the life of a reporter or raises questions about Adolf Hitler’s qualities…”
Jackson tried to explain Farrakhan’s attitude toward Hitler, saying “Here’s a man who said Hitler was not a man he embraced, admired, but a man that obviously gained favor amongst his people. He did not say he embraced Hitler. That was a statement, again, that is not an accurate portrayal of what the man’s point of view happens to be.”
RESPONSE BY HART
Asked by Vanocur how he reacted to Farrakhan’s threat against Colemon, Hart replied: “First of all, I think we ought to leave the fact aside that Mr, Coleman’s a reporter; that’s immaterial, he’s a human being. If you threaten the life of any human being its a violation of the criminal laws of almost every state in the Union. I don’t know why the authorities haven’t moved on that … I must say, with all due respect, Jesse, I don’t think it’s for you or me or anyone else to forgive Mr. Farrakhan; I think its up to Mr. Coleman to forgive Mr. Farrakhan because he was the one who was threatened…”