In asserting that America is "better off" for having a local black-owned radio station like WLIB, Vice President Al Gore, in a presidential debate Monday night in Harlem, may not have realized how controversial the station is, particularly to the Jewish community.
Squaring off against Democratic rival Bill Bradley in a debate at the Apollo Theater, Gore defended his support of an affirmative action bill intended to increase African-American representation in broadcasting. "I think this country is better off for having the Tom Joyner show and for having April Ryan and having WLIB," said Gore, referring to a nearby syndicated radio host and a correspondent for the American Urban Radio Network, in addition to citing the station long accused of airing anti-Semitic viewpoints.
WLIB (purchased by Inner City Broadcasting in 1972, some 20 years before the bill Gore supported) has been criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for providing a forum for the views of anti-white activist Sonny Carson and CUNY professor Leonard Jeffries, and for talk shows that allow callers to freely voice hatred against Jews.
In 1995, three advertisers (Wrigley’s gum, Republican National Bank and MasterCard International) withdrew their spots from WLIB after receiving transcripts of WLIB broadcasts from the Jewish Action Alliance.
The director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition blamed WLIB for presenting a radicalized view of the black community. "Some of the program content that goes on on that station, and the selection of hosts give an impression of the black community as a radicalized, nationalist and in some ways racist community and I think that’s regrettable and very changeable," said Michael Meyers. "The hosts should be knowledgeable enough and substantive enough to refuse racial idiocy and anti-Semitism. But in some ways they contribute to the idiocy, through their love affair with Louis Farrakhan and the ‘black power’ crowd."
Calls to Gore’s campaign for comment on WLIB went unanswered.
Gore’s remark came two weeks after Republican presidential front-runner George W. Bush prompted an outcry by saying he’d support federal social service funds for Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam.
Also earlier this month, Gore agreed to meet face to face with controversial Rev. Al Sharpton. The two men met for an hour on Feb. 13 at the New York home of Gore’s daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff.
Gore’s staff reportedly tried to conceal the meeting from the press.
The low-profile meeting indicates an attempt to reach out to all segments of the black community without angering Jewish voters who consider Sharpton anti-Semitic: something which did not concern Bradley, who has held two public meetings with him.
"At least Gore had his meeting in private and did not visit Sharpton’s so-called House of Justice," said one prominent Jewish Gore supporter.
But Ester Fuchs of Columbia University’s Center for Urban Policy said both candidates had little to lose by meeting Sharpton. "The only votes to be lost are those who would already vote Republican," she said. "While there are problems between the black and Jewish community, it is still the most advantageous coalition to elect Democrats statewide. Every candidate needs to figure out how to attract the Jewish and black vote."
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert insists he has no idea who has the special park-anywhere permit issued in his name by City Hall. The Daily News revealed that Olmert is one of several political supporters of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani who have been issued the coveted plaques, generally reserved for city workers.
Olmert said the pass may have been issued on a temporary basis to a driver during one of his many visits here, and he made light of the subject Thursday. "I would like to get my hands on it because I hear it’s worth a lot of money," he said.
Olmert was in New York to attend a Senate fund-raiser for Giuliani, who treated his guest to a tour of his prized Emergency Management Center at the World Trade Center, which the mayor’s critics and the press refer to as his "bunker."
Echoing previous statements, Olmert called Giuliani one of Jerusalem’s greatest friends while criticizing Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton for her Suha Arafat debacle, all the while insisting he is neutral in the Senate race.
Asked about the concern among American Jewish leaders that partisanship by Israeli officials could strain the U.S.-Israel relationship, Olmert scoffed: "I am not going to endorse, [I’m] not participating, and I’m certainly not the one who started any political statements about the situation."
Prime Minister Ehud Barak was also accused of interference in the Senate race after he publicly praised Clinton following her Israel trip in November.
"I am not fund raising," Olmert insisted. "I am participating in an event honoring Mayor Giuliani."
Olmert’s non-fund raising netted $2,000 per person from more than 100 people who turned out to meet the mayors at the Park Avenue home of Giuliani supporter Harry Rubenstein, according to campaign manager Bruce Teitelbaum.
It would appear that either Giuliani’s campaign isn’t writing off any potential contributors, or it needs to spend more time trimming its mailing list.
One recipient of a recent Giuliani fund-raising letter was Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, which is solidly backing Clinton. The letter was mailed to Forman at a post office box registered to NJDC.
"With great regret, I will have to decline my opportunity to join with Pat Robertson and Trent Lott in Giuliani’s efforts to defeat the ‘left-wing elite’ he refers to in his letter," said Forman. Friends of Giuliani spokeswoman Kim Serrafin did not return calls.
Last Sunday, the powerful Kings Highway Democratic Club in Brooklyn (which has a proven get-out-the vote operation) endorsed Giuliani for Senate, prompting a large group of Kings County Democrats to declare that the borough is solidly behind Clinton. "Hillary is popular throughout the borough and she will carry it by an overwhelming margin in November," said Assembly member Adele Cohen of Brighton Beach.