The news may have been buried under the vast pile of developments in Trump World over the weekend (health care, religious liberty, overseas trip, Ivanka’s book and Kushner’s conflict of interest, for starters), but the resounding silence by the Republican noise machine and mainstream Jewish community following White House staffer Omarosa Manigault’s friendly remarks and outreach to anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan still spoke volumes.
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“I’ve never shied away from having an open, and I believe a good, relationship with Louis Farrakhan,” said Manigault, director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison in the Trump administration. “I would look forward to receiving that invitation and sitting down with him.”
Manigault was rolling out the red carpet for Farrakhan during a chat with talk-show hosts on a Chicago radio station on Thursday.
The conversation was part of Manigault’s efforts to send a message that the Trump administration was reaching out to the African-American community – something the former reality star has been attempting, with mixed results, since starting her job.
When they asked her – cloaked in polite words – how a self-respecting African-American woman could carry water for Trump, she responded that the community had no right to complain about Trump’s policies (as they have vocally in Manigault’s presence) if they didn’t make their concerns and desires known to the White House.
The radio hosts followed up by asking if Farrakhan would be among those invited to give the White House his two cents, and Manigault replied hospitably.
Just one Jewish organization spoke out strongly following the incident, asking for clarification. It was Anti-Defamation League National Director Jonathan Greenblatt, who quickly issued a statement that “Louis Farrakhan should not be made to feel welcome by anyone in the White House. Such an overture would only serve to legitimize his long record of conspiratorial and hateful views toward Jews. We hope that the administration will make it clear that Farrakhan and his anti-Semitic organization will find no supporters in the White House.”
But from Trump supporters, the Republican Party, the rest of the American-Jewish community, and even Democrats – nada.
Let’s set aside for a moment the theoretical firestorm that would have erupted if a staffer holding the same position in the Obama White House had spoken of a “good” relationship with Farrakhan.
There is a real-life comparison to be made, when one considers the months of outrage over Farrakhan during Rep. Keith Ellison’s campaign for DNC chairman, delivered from all quarters.
From the early days of his candidacy, Ellison’s ties to Farrakhan in the 1990s were a target for criticism, despite the fact Ellison expressed regret in 2006 that he “did not adequately scrutinize the positions and statements” of the Nation of Islam, and that “they were and are anti-Semitic – and I should have come to that conclusion earlier than I did. I regret that I didn’t. But at no time did I ever share their hateful views, or repeat or approve of their hateful statements directed at Jews, gays or any other group.”
The trepidation, if overblown, was understandable, as was the sigh of relief among many Democrats when his rival Tom Perez was ultimately chosen to lead the party, with Ellison his deputy.
Farrakhan, after all, has made disturbingly hateful and anti-Semitic statements his stock-in-trade, and hasn’t slowed down in recent years. In 2015 he spoke of “wicked ones in the Jewish community that run America, run the government, run the world, own the banks, own the means of communication. They are my enemies!”
The same year, he said publicly that Israelis and “Zionist Jews” were behind the 9/11 attacks. And in 2014 he said, “The Satanic Jews that control everything and mostly everybody, if they are your enemy, then you must be somebody.”
The Trump era hasn’t slowed him down. Recently, Farrakhan tweeted: “Mr. Trump: You say, ‘America first.’ America is never first. Israel is always first. Ask any Jew, even your son-in-law.”
But if Farrakhan is so detestable, where are the voices of those who smeared Ellison when it comes to Manigault?
Where is Alan Dershowitz, who slammed Ellison’s “sordid past associations” with Farrakhan on any cable outlet or publication that would have him?
Again, one can only imagine what would be coming out of the Republican noise machine if an Obama or Clinton aide as closely tied to the president as Manigault is to Trump made such a warm gesture to the controversial minister.
So it is very strange that Manigault is getting a pass. Maybe it’s because she’s having a rough week, fighting rumors that she is being cut from Trump’s inner circle and that he is now betraying members of the African-American community that she worked hard to cultivate.
Or the reason could be that she’s not taken seriously to begin with. After all, the 43-year-old is best known as the ratings magnet villain in the first season of Trump’s reality-TV show “The Apprentice.”
Like many reality stars, she seems to be famous for being famous. Except now she is famous for being that rarest of creatures: an African-American woman who wholeheartedly vouches for Donald Trump.
“I am living the American Dream because of Donald Trump,” she said in December. “Look at my career, the wealth and exposure that I’ve had; it’s very difficult to make the argument that Donald Trump doesn’t like black people and black women.”
Actually, it’s not that difficult. Just as it’s not hard to make the argument that Farrakhan’s nasty preaching regarding Jews goes far beyond not “liking” them, and should preclude an “open” and “good” relationship with anyone who presumes to represent the White House – no matter who the president is or what party they belong to.