WASHINGTON (Sep. 26)
Less than three weeks after Jack Kemp drew the wrath of many Jewish activists for praising Louis Farrakhan, the Republican vice presidential candidate has again voiced support for the Nation of Islam leader’s self-help philosophy.
In an interview scheduled to be aired Friday night, Kemp told David Frost that Farrakhan’s message of self-reliance is one “that all of us, white and black, need to think about as we go into the 21st century.”
Kemp also said of last year’s Million Man March in Washington: “Part of the message was to be admired.”
At the same time, Kemp told Frost, “I have asked him publicly to renounce anti- Semitism, which is repugnant to me as a Christian and is repugnant to our American democracy.”
The Frost show also features interviews with Vice President Al Gore and Reform Party vice presidential candidate Pat Choate.
Kemp set off a firestorm of criticism earlier this month when he praised part of Farrakhan’s philosophy in an interview with the Boston Globe.
When asked his opinion of the Nation of Islam leader’s self-help philosophy for the black community, Kemp said, “It’s wonderful, it’s wonderful,” according to a transcript of the interview provided by the paper.
Kemp said at the time, “Racism, bigotry, scapegoating and anti-Semitism are evil and must be eradicated at every turn if we are to move forward as a society, one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
Like Kemp’s earlier remarks, his latest statements drew fire from Jewish Democrats.
“He doesn’t understand,” said Stephen Silberfarb, deputy associate director of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “You can’t separate the messenger of hate from the messenger.”
“What whites and blacks need to think about going into the 21st century is working together, not working with an anti-Semitic, bigot racist.”
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said, “It’s sad that Jack Kemp continues to persist in misunderstanding how this issue impacts on the Jewish community.”
“You simply cannot separate Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism from his message of self- reliance.” said Foxman, who has protested Kemp’s earlier remarks in a letter to the editor sent to the Boston Globe.
Kemp’s latest statements came as the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Haley Barbour, lambasted Jewish Democrats for criticizing Kemp earlier this month.
Your statements “ring hollow given the clear lack of action on the part of the National Jewish Democratic Council and the DNC in dealing with racists and anti-Semites in your own party,” Barbour wrote in a letter to the NJDC.
“Rather than playing political games like this, you would be better served by working within your party to bring the Democrats’ record up to that of the Republicans on this issue,” he wrote.
Barbour was referring to the Democratic National Committee’s delay in refusing to participate in a voter registration drive with Farrakhan and the NJDC’s silence earlier this year as Republicans called on the State Department to revoke Farrakhan’s passport after he visited Libya.
Silberfarb called Barbour’s charges “laughable” and “ridiculous,” saying the Democrats are proud of their record of standing up to the Nation of Islam.
“Had there been an agreement, we would have responded. To equate that with Jack Kemp’s open embrace of part of Louis Farrakhan’s message shows that Mr. Barbour doesn’t get it” Silberfarb added. “Barbour claims to stand up to Farrakhan but has nothing to say about his vice presidential candidate cozying up to Farrakhan’s message.”
Jewish Republicans defended Kemp in the wake of the latest flap.
“In an attempt to explain himself, Jack Kemp has reignited the issue,” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the National Jewish Coalition. “Regrettably the only voice in the black community talking about these issues is Louis Farrakhan. I wish [Kemp] could find a better example to prove his point.”