Of all the days to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, President Joe Biden probably should have avoided Tuesday.
After all, it’s not that Tuesday was a day with a lull in the president’s schedule. In the morning, he attended a memorial service in the Capitol Rotunda for U.S. Capitol Police Officer William “Billy” Evans, who was killed in an attack on April 2 when a man rammed his car into two police officers along the perimeter fencing around the Capitol and then emerged from his car with a knife.
The man was shot dead, but not before delivering fatal injuries to Evans.
It’s worth noting Biden’s comportment during the memorial service was genuinely admirable and affecting, and this is coming from an individual who’s developed a mordant eye-roll for anyone who tries to push any shopworn permutation of how our current president is a “uniter” or “healer” dripping with the milk of human compassion. (As Biden himself might say: “Come on, man.”)
“Your son, your husband, your brother, your dad was a hero,” Biden told Evans’ family during the service, according to NBC News. “You are going to make it by holding each other together. By holding Logan and Abigail as tightly as you can. As long as you have them, you have Billy.”
When Evans’ 7-year-old daughter dropped a toy — a model of the U.S. Capitol — Biden picked it off of the ground and handed it to her. Unlike the words of a speech, that’s the kind of act you can’t calculate. It appeared for one day, at least, Biden would be a uniter and healer.
And then he made poorly calculated decision to spend Tuesday afternoon meeting with several senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus tied to the anti-Semitic, anti-white hate-preacher Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam and a man who was lionized by the man who killed Officer Evans.
Yes, apparently, our president couldn’t even make it through the entire calendar day without thoroughly defiling a bit of human goodwill he’d legitimately earned. I’m not sure whether to be impressed or depressed.
According to Fox News, at least three of those Democrats who met with Biden — Reps. James Clyburn of South Carolina and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, along with Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia — have, at one time or another, offered praise and/or support to Farrakhan and the black separatist Nation of Islam.
Evans’ killer, 25-year-old Noah Green, described himself as a “Follower of Farrakhan” on his Facebook page and referred to Farrakhan as “Jesus.”
It’s unclear what role, if any, Farrakhan’s teachings played in inspiring the attack. Profiles of Green paint him as a troubled man who, as Washington Post reporters Emily Davies, Justin Juvenal and Michael E. Miller wrote, had apparently “slid into deep religiousness and paranoia that left family and friends concerned about his mental state in recent years.”
There’s no clear chicken-and-egg relationship involving Green’s mental state and Farrakhan’s teachings; or, for all we know, it could have been a feedback loop where each one amplified the other.
However, that doesn’t change the fact Farrakhan’s hateful teachings are singularly mephitic among American preachers of any stature. He’s called Jewish people “termites” and once told a 1985 crowd, according to The Weekly Standard, that, “Don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!” The year before, according to The Washington Post, he said, “Hitler was a very great man.”
Of course, how great could Hitler have been if the Jewish people brought him to power? Because Farrakhan has claimed that, too: “The Jews have been so bad at politics they lost half their population in the Holocaust,” he said in 1998, according to the U.K.-based The Guardian. “They thought they could trust in Hitler, and they helped him get the Third Reich on the road.”
You might think Democrats would drop Farrakhan these days, considering he’s no friend of progressive causes like homosexuality — and guess who’s to blame for the gender fluidity craze?
“The Jews were responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out: Turning men into women, and women into men,” Farrakhan said in a 2018 speech, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
And while Farrakhan hates the Jews in particular, fret not — he also hates the non-melinated in general: “White people are potential humans — they haven’t evolved yet,” he said in 2000, according to The Guardian.
This is someone who has spent almost four decades in the spotlight saying truly cretinous, hateful things, changing little with the times and never apologizing for any of it. And yet, while the Democratic Party and most of the left has kept Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam at arm’s length at the very least, they’ve mostly been exceptionally indulgent with black Democrats who have embraced him.
Case in point: The three members of the Congressional Black Caucus who met with Biden on Tuesday.
As House Majority Whip, Clyburn is the third-highest ranking Democrat in the lower chamber of Congress, just behind House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
Biden arguably wouldn’t be president without Clyburn, either. During the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, Biden put up two disastrous beginning performances in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, finishing fourth and fifth with 14 percent and 8 percent of the vote, respectively. Biden also came in a disappointingly distant second in the Nevada caucuses, where Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders amassed twice the vote he did.
Democrats were beginning to come to terms with the fact they might have to call their nominee “comrade.”
Clyburn’s endorsement three days before the primary in South Carolina came as Biden held a 32.2 percent to 20.6 percent lead over Sanders in the state the day before, Feb. 25, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.
This wasn’t as impressive as it sounded. Biden had always been expected to clean up in South Carolina by a Brobdingnagian margin because of his appeal with black voters (at least compared to Sanders and the rest of the mayonnaise battalion of Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren) allowing him to pick up serious delegates and spring into Super Tuesday, two days later, with his campaign fully resuscitated. A win of 12-ish points wasn’t going to make the grade.
In part thanks to Clyburn mobilizing the black vote, Biden got his wish: He won by a 48 percent to 20 percent margin and then went on decimate Sanders on Super Tuesday two days later. Not that Sanders held much of a shot after that, but the exigencies of 2020 pretty much shut down the race following that last gasp for serious campaigning.
Clyburn has at least twice lent his support to Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. In 2000, when the South Carolina representative was the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, he invited the hate-preacher to a private gathering of CBC members days before Farrakhan’s Million Family March.
Perhaps felicitously, nobody remembers this. Few audience estimates exist for the “Million Family March,” although it clearly didn’t draw nearly the critical mass the Million Man March did six years prior, judging by YouTube footage.
Having dodged a bullet in 2000, Clyburn decided to try again to take one for Minister Farrakhan back in 2011, when he appeared on stage in Pittsburgh with the Nation of Islam leader, along with radio host Bev Smith, in Pittsburgh for a town hall meeting titled “The Disappearing Black Community and How We Can Get It Back.”
In quotes given to the Nation of Islam publication The Final Call, Clyburn seemed unperturbed by those who demanded he disinvite himself from the event, saying he was “not bothered in the least bit” by those offended he’d share the stage with a hate-preacher.
“‘I want to thank Min. Farrakhan for offering up a number of precepts that we ought to adhere to,’ said Rep. Clyburn, after the Minister Farrakhan made remarks about the critical need for Blacks to unite, pool their resources and build for a future,” The Final Call reported.
“The best lessons are taught by example, and what needs to happen is that once individuals are inspired, they should move forward in making a vision a reality, said Rep. Clyburn.”
Just in case you believed the Clyburn’s attendance made the evening more measured, The Final Call headlined its coverage: “Bev Smith drives back Jewish pressure, Farrakhan takes the city of Pittsburgh.”
In 2006, meanwhile, Jackson-Lee attended an event at Houston’s Muhammad’s Mosque No. 45 in Houston where Farrakhan preached, Fox News reported.
Before he preached, though, Jackson-Lee, whose district includes much of Houston, offered a paean to Farrakhan.
“I come to you today because I come to pay honor to those who lead. The Nation of Islam has always been on the forefront of leadership without embarrassment, shyness or apology. You have always been there when we have had the cause,” she said, according to The Final Call.
Farrakhan would acknowledge her in her speech, saying Jackson-Lee “knows the struggle that the black and brown members of Congress have to influence that process.”
Warnock, meanwhile, never shared a stage with Farrakhan or directly praised him. He did, however, laud the work done by the Nation of Islam, particularly in the 1960s, during a speech in 2013.
“Its voice has been important for the development of black theology,” said Warnock, senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, according to Fox News.
“It was the black Muslims who challenged black preachers and said, ‘you’re promulgating … the white man’s religion. That’s a slave religion. You’re telling people to focus on heaven, meanwhile, they’re catching hell.’”
Thus did the Nation of Islam “put a fire” under black preachers and keep them “honest.”
President Biden apparently doesn’t have an issue with those willing to embrace that kind of hate-preaching, even if that hate preaching was also embraced by the man who killed Officer Evans.
Actions speak louder than words. Biden could have told the CBC that Tuuesday wasn’t the day, particularly given their complicated relationships with Farrakhan, a man connected to this horrific killing.
Evans’ 7-year-old daughter will likely remember the fact Biden picked up her toy. So, too, will many Americans. She may choose to forget that Biden would go from the memorial service to meet with individuals who once endorsed the vitriolic anti-Semite, anti-white preacher beloved by the man who killed her father. Perhaps she won’t think it’s intentional.
When President Biden starts touting his bona fides on unity and healing, however, America shouldn’t give him that benefit of the doubt.
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