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Public Enemy Causes Stir Again Tying Jews to Jesus’ Crucifixion

December 28, 1989
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The controversy surrounding the rap music group Public Enemy has reignited with the release of its new album’s first single, “Welcome to the Terror-dome.”

The song’s lyrics revive the ancient accusation of Jewish responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus, and implies that Jews have done the same to the song’s narrator:

Crucifixion ain’t no fiction

So-called chosen, frozen

Apology made to whoever pleases

Still they got me, just like Jesus.

The words appear to refer to the storm of controversy surrounding the group last summer, when group member Richard Griffin (known as “Professor Griff”) gave a newspaper interview in which he made anti-Semitic statements, among them that the Jews “were responsible for the majority of wickedness that goes on across the globe.”

After Griffin’s statements were roundly condemned, the band’s lead singer, Chuck Ridenhour (stage name Chuck D), briefly suspended Griffin from Public Enemy and then temporarily dissolved the group. But less than a month later, the group reassembled and Griffin was reinstated.

During the height of the controversy, one of Public Enemy’s managers, Lyor Cohen, arranged for Ridenhour to speak by telephone to the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper about Jewish sensitivities.

In November, Cooper and Ridenhour met face to face when Cohen brought the young rap singer for an hour-and-half-long tour of the Wiesenthal Center’s Holocaust museum, but this meeting took place after “Welcome to the Terrordome” had already been written.


Cooper said Tuesday that he is certain the phrase in the new single, “tell the rab to get off the rag” — street language for “tell the rabbi to stop complaining” — is a direct reference to him, although he said that the personal reference “is not the issue.”

Instead, Cooper said, “the issue is the use of the code words of Farrakhan.”

The phrase “so-called chosen,” Cooper said, “is pulled right out of the lexicon of Farrakhan’s ideology.”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency was told that because of the holidays, neither representatives of Public Enemy’s management nor CBS Records, which is distributing the single, could be reached for comment.

The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith sent a letter Tuesday to Thomas Mottola, the president of CBS records, saying that the ADL is “troubled that CBS plans to facilitate the distribution of the anti-Semitic sentiments voiced in Public Enemy’s new recording, thus lending your considerable resources and prestige to the group’s bigotry.”

The letter notes that “if those in positions of leadership in the creative arts wink at such blatant bigotry, it sends the message to millions of young American that these sentiments are acceptable — a message carrying destructive implications for the future of American democratic pluralism.”

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