Leading Democrat blasted for lying about support for antisemites

Republicans call out House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) for “lying” when saying that he barely remembers the 1990s controversy.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries is being called out for “lying” by Republicans for saying he barely remembers an incident in the 1990s involving an uncle’s virulent antisemitism when he had very publicly supported him at the time, while Democratic colleagues are defending him.

The New York Democrat’s uncle, Leonard Jeffries, was a department chair of Black Studies at the City University of New York three decades ago.

He was forced to leave his position after saying that “rich Jews” had played a prominent role in the African slave trade, and that there was “a conspiracy, planned and plotted and programmed out of Hollywood” of Jewish executives to portray black Americans negatively in films.

Other derogatory comments he made in the years that followed included calling Jews “dogs” and “skunks.”

When first elected to office in 2013, Jeffries told the Wall Street Journal that he had only a “vague recollection” of the brouhaha that publicly erupted over the statements, saying that it wasn’t covered in the press where he was in college in Binghamton University in upstate New York at the time.

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However, CNN revealed Wednesday that Jeffries had led a charge to defend his uncle, along with the well-known antisemitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who is infamous for calling Jews “termites” and praising Hitler as “a great man.”

Jeffries, then an executive board member of the Black Student Union, invited his uncle to speak at the university. When Jewish student groups protested, he called a press conference to say he would not back down.

He also penned an editorial in the Union’s paper to fire back at those denouncing his uncle, including then-New York governor Mario Cuomo and the black New York City mayor, David Dinkins.

“Dr. Leonard Jeffries and Minister Louis Farrakhan have come under intense fire,” he wrote in February 1992. “Where do you think their interests lie? Dr. Jeffries has challenged the existing white supremist educational system and long standing distortion of history. His reward has been a media lynching complete with character assassinations and inflammatory erroneous accusations.”

In reaction to the revelation, the Republican Jewish Coalition said that Jeffries “owes the Jewish community an explanation as to why he lied and attempted to cover up his defense of these revolting antisemites.”

Speaking to Fox News, black Republican Congressman Byron Donalds called for Jeffries to “apologize, obviously, for what he wrote in that essay, 100%.”

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Jewish Democrats in the House, however, leaped to his defense.

“I know Hakeem Jeffries. I know his record, his heart, and his soul,” Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) said in a statement to Jewish Insider. “He and I have traveled to Israel together. He is a friend of mine, a friend of the Jewish people, and a friend of Israel.”

Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Dean Phillips (D-MN) depicted him as an ally of the Jewish community, with Phillips tweeting, “Few Americans are more committed defenders of the Jewish community, and all communities subject to hate, than Hakeem Jeffries.”

Former New York congressman Steve Israel told the Jewish media site that Jeffries “is among the first and most effective voices in consistently attacking anti-Semitism and supporting Israel on the floor of the House.”

“He’s an indispensable ally and advocate,” Israel added, “and that record speaks for itself. Anyone trying to make an issue out of a college essay is doing a disservice to that record.”

Jeffries spokesperson Christiana Stephenson told CNN that “Leader Jeffries has consistently been clear that he does not share the controversial views espoused by his uncle over 30 years ago.”