In a New York Times column, Bob Herbert insisted that Senator Trent Lott and Congressman Bob Barr weren?t being criticized enough by the media for mistakenly attending the meetings of a group, some of whose members oppose forced integration and interracial marriage. Herbert declared, “Black racism is a big no-no nowadays, but white racism largely gets a pass. Imagine the outcry if a mainstream black politician gave a rousing keynote address to the Nation of Islam, and declared that Louis Farrakhan?s philosophy and principles were the right ones.”
But the truth is that Jesse Jackson, a mainstream black politician, basically did that four years ago when he was a featured speaker at a march on Washington that was organized by Farrakhan. He didn?t specifically endorse Farrakhan?s philosophy, but he did give Farrakhan respectability and credibility by showing up at his rally. The so-called Million Man March was a Farrakhan production from start to finish, and yet Jackson was there, despite being warned in advance not to show up.
Bob Herbert?s memory seems to have faded in recent years because he failed to remember Jackson?s participation in that event. He also forgot to mention that Farrakhan was a public supporter of Jackson when he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984. Clearly, Herbert?s column was an attempt to divert attention from Clinton?s scandalous personal behavior by focusing on some controversies involving the Republicans active in his impeachment and possible conviction. Congressman Barr is a manager of the House impeachment case and Lott of course is a member of the Senate jury that will vote up or down on conviction.
If these kinds of associations are worthy of review and comment, Herbert should turn his attention to Jackson, who has emerged as a close spiritual adviser to President Clinton. Has there been any outrage or concern about that? Jackson himself made disparaging remarks about Jews when he ran for President and that hasn?t hurt his career in any way at all. Indeed, Jackson still has a weekly half-hour show on CNN.
Farrakhan, of course, has made some even more controversial remarks, and has never repudiated them. Nevertheless, he has appeared as a guest on the influential NBC Meet the Press program, hosted on Sundays by Tim Russert. Russert has asked him some tough questions, but they both have avoided some of Farrakhan?s more controversial views, such as belief in flying saucers. Bob Herbert of the Times wants us to believe that mainstream black politicians who endorse Farrakhan will be ostracized by the political establishment and the media when the fact is that Farrakhan himself gets respectable treatment and coverage.
If Bob Herbert is as even-handed as he wants us to believe the media should be, he should set an example by writing a column subjecting Jesse Jackson to critical scrutiny. If he chooses to remain silent, that will demonstrate that his attacks on Senator Lott and Congressman Barr are purely political—that he is concerned about racism only to the extent that he can use it as a weapon.