Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has been among the loudest voices critiquing former Vice President Joe Biden over Biden’s record of meeting with “Dixiecrats” who supported segregation and other racist policies back when he first began his tenure in Congress.
But Saturday, in an act of blinding irony, Booker, asked about his relationship with virulent anti-Semite, Rev. Louis Farrakhan, brushed off concerns and refused to say that he would not meet with the Nation of Islam’s notorious top preacher of hate.
During a “faith breakfast” in South Carolina, Booker was asked, point blank, about his willingness to engage with Farrakhan by an audience member: “My question was would you be willing to have avoidance with him concerning his anti-Semitism?”
Booker responded with a lame excuse: that he has to put up with Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam because one of their mosques is within his constituency. And while he’s not one of those people who’d meet with everyone, Booker said, he sees no reason to apologize for his history of interacting with Farrakhan and his organization.
“You-you know, I live in Newark,” Booker stammered. “We have famous Mosque 25. We have Nation of Islam there,”
“As mayor I met with lots of folks. I hear Minister Farrakhan speeches for a lot of my life, so I don’t feel like I need to do that. I’m not one of these people who says I wouldn’t sit down with anybody to hear what they have to say,” he continued.
Asked if he understood precisely what Farrakhan represented to the Jewish community, Booker said he was familiar with Nation of Islam teachings.
“I am very familiar with Minister Farrakhan and his beliefs,” Booker added.
That’s a rather fascinating turn of events for Booker, who lashed out at Biden just last week over revelations that Biden worked with segregationist senators to get bills passed through Congress at the beginning of his career. Biden defended his temporary partnerships by saying they represented his ability to practice “civility” in order to get things accomplished.
“Vice President Biden’s relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people, and for everyone,” Booker told reporters almost immediately after the news broke about Biden’s comments.
Booker later told ABC’s “This Week” that Biden’s excuse of “civility” was “hurtful,” that Biden would likely be unable to atone for his past sins, and that Biden should cease defending his record.
“This is about him evoking a terrible power dynamic that he showed a lack of understanding or insensitivity to by invoking this idea that he was called son by white segregationists who, yes, they see in him their son,” Booker said. “I heard from many, many African Americans who found the comments hurtful.”
Biden is obviously the target of ire because he is running well ahead of the pack of contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Many of the concerns about Biden, of course, weren’t really concerns during the near-decade he served as Barack Obama’s vice president, but are surfacing now that he’s the clear front-runner.
For Booker, the issue may be more complicated. The Democratic party is definitely struggling with how to handle anti-Semitism within its ranks and has been less than effective at policing its connection to those who preach and speak hate against the Jewish people. Booker, like many of his colleagues, seems all too willing to tolerate characters like Farrakhan, even given their long history of anti-Semitic remarks.