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[Washington Babylon]

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.

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