Juan Williams: The GOP's tired Farrakhan smear

Juan Williams: The GOP's tired Farrakhan smear
© Getty Images

Republicans need some new material. Seriously.

Their latest effort is a desperate attempt to use 84-year-old Louis Farrakhan, the racist leader of the cult-like Nation of Islam, to silence President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE’s critics in the Congressional Black Caucus.

Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor PETA billboard in Baltimore calls Kushner a 'rich pest' Dick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report MORE retweeted Farrakhan earlier this month, saying “Sounds like the Democrat’s [sic] front runner for 2020. I guess they finally embraced God... which is nice!”

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump Jr.’s tweet is aimed at pushing the lie that blacks in Congress are hypocrites for not calling out racism from a black man: Farrakhan. There’s also the suggestion that anti-white racism is key to black opposition to the president.

 

In fact, Farrakhan has been a known black separatist for the last half century. He condemns white people as “devils” in a twisted attempt to bolster the self-image of poor black people in the face of racism.

He also makes vile comment about Jews. And he regularly skewers mainstream black politicians and reporters who support racial integration.

In fact, he condemns all American politics as corrupt.

I know this because, as a Washington Post reporter, I covered some of Farrakhan’s speeches in the 1980s, as well as calls for black politicians to repudiate him.

I also know that, during the 2016 Republican primaries, Farrakhan admired Trump’s politically incorrect approach to Jewish donors. Trump rudely told a Jewish group: “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.”

Farrakhan excitedly responded to that crass language by encouraging Trump, the Associated Press reported, to “push” a racially separate agenda “that will limit the freedoms of others.”

Farrakhan sees those policies as advancing his black separatist agenda. Farrakhan exhorted Trump to “push it so good that black people say, ‘I’m outta here – I can’t take it no more.’”

But Trump Jr.’s aim is to get everyone to believe that Farrakhan is a hidden hand behind anti-Trump politics and most incredibly, a leading Democrat.

Trump’s followers are similarly attacking the co-president of the Women’s March, Tamika Mallory, for attending a speech given by Farrakhan last month.

On Twitter, the far-right is calling on blacks in Congress, and Mallory, to denounce Farrakhan. Trump's fans think they’ve found a way to extinguish anti-Trump energy, including the marches that have swept the nation since he became president. 

Keep in mind that this barrage from the Trump camp comes at a time when 57 percent of Americans say the president is a racist, according to an Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll. Eighty percent of blacks say Trump is racist, as do about 75 percent of Hispanics and close to half of all whites.

The people polled must recall the president’s incredible claim that “some very fine people,” were among the ‘alt-right’ mix of white nationalists and neo-Nazis who led a violent march in Charlottesville, Va., last year. A female protestor was killed by a car allegedly driven by a far-right extremist during that period.

Maybe some of the people being polled also recall the Ku Klux Klan newspaper’s support for Trump. Maybe they heard about the Nazi salutes given to Richard Spencer, a white nationalist and Trump supporter, when he celebrated Trump’s victory by saying: “America was until this past generation a white country…It belongs to us.” The group also chanted: “Hail Trump!”

In a brassy counterattack, Trump’s acolytes are now trying to score political points by damning black members of Congress for their reluctance to issue another round of condemnations of Farrakhan.

This political ploy is so transparent and preposterous that I strongly debated whether it was even worth a column.   

But this appeal to racial fears fits exactly with the destructive strategy behind Russian-paid advertising on Facebook during the 2016 presidential race.

The Russians aimed to divide Americans by race and religion, as well as through specific hot-button issues such as gay rights and immigration.

The strategy was exposed last fall when Facebook turned over to Congress more than 3,000 ads, paid for by Russians. The Russians wanted to “sow chaos,” according to Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLawmakers sound alarm on China's disinformation campaign in Hong Kong Facebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach New intel chief inherits host of challenges MORE (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

One flaw with the strategy became obvious when Russian President Vladimir Putin declared earlier this month that “Jews” might be behind the hacking and social media attacks during the 2016 campaign.

Trump never condemned Putin. When the leaders spoke, the U.S. president used his time to congratulate Putin on winning another term as Russian president.

Yet the far-right is still attacking black politicians by tying them to Farrakhan.

Last week. Rep. Todd RokitaTheodore (Todd) Edward RokitaLobbying world Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations House passes year-end tax package MORE (R-Ind.) introduced a House resolution condemning Farrakhan. And the Republican Jewish Coalition called on eight black Democratic members of Congress to resign over ties to Farrakhan.

Minnesota Congressman Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonFormer Sanders aides launch consulting firm Minnesota AG will defend state's abortion restrictions despite personal views Hillicon Valley: House panel advances election security bill | GOP senator targets YouTube with bill on child exploitation | Hicks told Congress Trump camp felt 'relief' after release of Clinton docs | Commerce blacklists five Chinese tech groups MORE, who also serves as deputy chairman at the Democratic National Committee, tried to set the record straight in a blog post last week.

"I do not have and have never had a relationship with Mr. Farrakhan, but I have been in the same room as him," Ellison wrote. A fact-check by the Washington Post disputed Ellison’s claim to limited meetings with Farrakhan.  

Rep. Danny DavisDaniel (Danny) K. DavisRestore Pell Grant eligibility to people in prison Biden, Harris lead in 2020 endorsements Pelosi joins other Dem leaders in support of Chicago Symphony Orchestra strikers MORE (D-Ill.) also issued a statement condemning Farrakhan’s comments about whites and Jews.

All this reminds me of the old Soviet propaganda technique known as “Whataboutism.”

If someone said something critical about the USSR or communism, the retort would be “Well, what about [insert Western problem].”

We are now seeing the return of Soviet “whataboutism” in right-wing false equivalencies focused on Farrakhan.

While it is being done to help Trump, the real winner is Putin — in his efforts to boost Russia by dividing Americans, undercutting faith in democracy.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.