Washington Babylon — January 15, 2008, 2:07 pm

Would Louis Farrakhan Exist Without Richard Cohen?

When was the last time you read anything about Louis Farrakhan? My guess is that it was in a column by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post.

Cohen has been demanding that public figures denounce Farrakhan for at least 24 years, going back to 1984 when he wrote a column calling upon Jesse Jackson to do so. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Cohen criticized Smokin’ Joe Lieberman for not criticizing Farrakhan, at least to his satisfaction, and a year later he attacked the appointment of Maya Angelou to the board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum because she had spoken at the Million Man March.

“Do not misunderstand,” Cohen wrote. “I am not accusing Angelou of either antisemitism or racism–the twin pillars of Farrakhan’s demagoguery–or of being a supporter of his. I am saying, though, that when asked to appear at Farrakhan’s Million Man March, she did not say no, as some principled African Americans did, nor did she offer any sort of rebuke.”

Thus Cohen’s column today demanding that Barack Obama renounce Farrakhan was all but inevitable. Never mind that Obama has no ties to Farrakhan and has never said anything favorable about him. Column inches need filling and, according to Cohen, Obama must publicly reject Farrakhan–because Obama’s minister at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., has spoken favorably about the leader of the Nation of Islam.

Many of Farrakhan’s public comments are disgusting, but this is tripe even by Cohen’s own lamentable standards. Just as he did in the case of Angelou, Cohen acknowledged that “nothing in Obama’s record suggests he harbors anti-Semitic views.” He then goes on to smear Obama by (indirect) association with Farrakhan and says that if Obama doesn’t speak out against Farrakhan, the candidate will confirm Cohen’s suspicions that he has no “mettle” and “that he is a fog of a man.”

Beyond the smear job, Cohen might want to go back and read his column on Angelou, in which he generously forgave Jesse Jackson and Congressman Charles Rangel for speaking at the Million Man March. But, he wrote, “Angelou was a different matter. She is no politician or political leader. She would not have suffered at the polls if she told Farrakhan to get into his flying saucer and get the hell off the National Mall.”

“Cohen,” I wrote back in 2006, “can be an absolutely fierce bulldog—when he’s attacking soft targets like Louis Farrakhan, suicide bombers, or Nazis.” If nothing else, the man is predictable.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

October 2014

Cassandra Among the
Creeps

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

PBS Self-Destructs

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Monkey Did It

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“This is not a fable about a young woman whose dreams were dashed by a sexual predator. Maya’s narrative is one of institutional failure at a school desperately trying to adapt.”
Photograph © AP/Josh Reynolds
Article
Kandahar’s Mystery Executions·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“He told me he was made to stand on an ice block for thirty minutes at a time, and would then be forced to run barefoot across the gravel while an officer cable-whipped him.”
Photograph (detail) © Victor J. Blue
Article
The Tale of the Tape·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Heroin isn’t the weakness Art Pepper submits to; it’s the passion he revels in.”
Photograph (detail) © Laurie Pepper
Post
Art Beyond Politics·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Arab artists take up — and look past — regional politics
“When everyday life regularly throws up images of terror and drama and the technological sublime, how can a photographer compete?”
“Qalandia 2087, 2009,” by Wafa Hourani
Criticism
The Soft-Kill Solution·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia

Percentage of Americans who rank the stock-market crash as the most important problem facing America today:

2

Men with diabetes are more likely to have low testosterone levels.

Comedian Joan Rivers died at age 81. “I finally found out how priests get holy water,” Rivers once said. “They boil the hell out of it.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today