Whatever else he does, Louis Farrakhan doesn’t offer many surprises. True to form, the Nation of Islam leader, tweeted a video on Tuesday of a speech he’d given for the anniversary of 1995’s Million Man March that ran under the caption—a line pulled from the speech—”I’m not an anti-Semite. I’m anti-Termite.” Big laughs and applause from the audience in Detroit.
For decades, Farrakhan has been spouting the vilest Jew-hatred his limited imagination can muster: calling Judaism a “gutter religion,” saying Hitler was a “very great man” and generally trying to outdo his last bit of lurid anti-Semitism. And yet, the response to Farrakhan from mainstream political and cultural leaders has often been muted. His attendance at a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus in 2005 led to a photo of him standing next to President Obama that was suppressed by the photographer who took it at the request of a caucus member and only saw the light of day earlier this year. Of course, there were the heads of the Women’s March like Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour, who, while claiming the mantle of progressive leadership, were reluctant to say a critical word about Farrakhan but quick to condemn the ADL. And, even more recently, Bill Clinton got in trouble for appearing on stage seated next to Farrakhan at the funeral of Aretha Franklin.
It’s a low bar, condemning the man who brags about “unmasking the Satanic Jew and the Synagogue of Satan” and yet an awful lot of prominent and powerful people have managed to trip over it.
Enter Chelsea Clinton, who minced no words in denouncing Farrakhan’s statements Wednesday, saying that the laughter his “anti termite” line drew made her skin crawl and pointing out to her 2.38 million Twitter followers that “everyone who rightly condemned President Trump’s rhetoric when he spoke about immigrants “infesting our country,” this rhetoric should be equally unacceptable to you.”
Comparing Jews to termites is anti-Semitic, wrong and dangerous. The responsive laughter makes my skin crawl. For everyone who rightly condemned President Trump’s rhetoric when he spoke about immigrants “infesting our country,” this rhetoric should be equally unacceptable to you: https://t.co/EvFp4ULugm
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) October 17, 2018
Clinton, whose husband is Jewish, made it clear in a subsequent tweet that she isn’t going to held responsible for what her parents have done in the past.
Hi Kate – I’ve heard this a lot today. Almost a drumbeat. A few thoughts: 1) Aretha’s family had every right to invite whomever they wanted to celebrate her life. 2) As I’ve said before, Farrakhan‘s anti-Semitism is wrong. Bigotry is always wrong. 3) … I’m not my parents. https://t.co/HHSZiKuVYM
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) September 4, 2018
Twitter, meanwhile, which has been banning users for expressions of bigotry—including some prominent right-wing accounts—and has a new policy on hate speech, told Buzzfeed’s Joe Bernstein: “Farrakhan’s tweet comparing Jews to termites is not in violation of the company’s policies. The policy on dehumanizing language has not yet been implemented.”
Tablet’s afternoon newsletter edited by Jacob Siegel and Park MacDougald.