WASHINGTON — Houston Democrat Al Green, distantly under fire for his embrace of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in a 2006 encounter, broke a long silence Friday and condemned the black nationalist figure as a “bigot.”
Green, an outspoken advocate for impeaching President Donald Trump on the basis of his past racial comments, said Farrakhan’s attacks on Jews should also be denounced.
“We have reached a point in our history where we cannot allow bigotry – regardless of the source – to be condoned, whether that be from President Trump or Minister Farrakhan,” Green said in a statement. “Although there are those who will find reason to condemn one and not the other for their bigotry, I have condemned both.”
Green’s statement came ahead of this weekend’s scheduled marches by a number of women’s groups now facing divisions over some of their leaders’ associations with Farrakhan. The controversy escalated this week after Women’s March co-president Tamika Mallory refused to denounce Farrakhan during an interview on ABC’s The View.
The long-festering dispute has sparked a schism among protest organizers, leading to a separate “March for ALL Women Rally” on Saturday in Washington and other cities.
The disagreement has given new life to a simmering argument between some conservative and Jewish groups and African American members of Congress who have met with Farrakhan in the past, including Green.
Green, who has represented Houston’s 9th congressional district since 2005, was ensnared in the controversy as one of several Congressional Black Caucus members seen embracing and talking to Farrakhan at a meeting in 2006.
But until now, Green has tried to generally stay out of the fray, refusing to be drawn into statements specifically denouncing Farrakhan, who has called “powerful Jews” his enemy.
In October, however, Green took to Twitter to criticize Farrakhan’s remarks comparing Jews to termites.
“If President Trump compared persons of any ethnicity or religion to termites, I would call that statement bigoted,” he wrote. “Since Minister Farrakhan has compared Jews to termites, I must call that statement bigoted. Bigotry is unacceptable regardless of the source.”
Other black members of Congress have disavowed Farrakhan at various times for his anti-Semitic and anti-white remarks, prompting the 84-year-old minister to lash out at them as sellouts. Jewish civil rights groups have called on more than a half-dozen black lawmakers to speak out against Farrakhan over the 2006 encounter and other events.
Among those facing similar pressure were Andre Carson of Indiana, Maxine Waters of California and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who was recently elected his state’s attorney general.
The controversy also swept up former President Barack Obama, who was photographed smiling with Farrakhan at a 2005 Congressional Black Caucus gathering. The image, taken when Obama was still an Illinois state senator, became fodder for his opponents in the 2008 presidential election.
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More recently, the Farrakhan storm has overtaken the planned Women’s March because of Mallory’s long association with Farrakhan and her attendance at a speech he gave in February that included anti-Semitic remarks.
Pressed to denounce Farrakhan on The View, Mallory would only distance herself from his anti-Semitic pronouncements.
“I don’t agree with these statements,” she said. “It’s not my language, it’s not the way that I speak. It’s not how I organize.”
While Green has similarly criticized Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic remarks on Twitter, his statement on Friday appeared to go a step further by explicitly calling out the minister as a bigot – likening him to Trump.
“I refuse to engage in a debate about one being better than the other,” Green said. “Although I have met with both of them, I do not condone the bigotry of either. Both are bigots.”