As anti-Semitism rises, should politicians do more to condemn Farrakhan hate speech

A police vehicle is posted near the Tree of Life/Or L'Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. Tree of Life shooting suspect Robert Gregory Bowers is expected to appear in federal court Monday. Authorities say he expressed hatred toward Jews during the rampage Saturday morning and in later comments to police. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - In the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, there are new concerns about the rise of anti-Semitism and hate speech in the country, and the role political leaders play in disavowing controversial figures.

Earlier this month, Louis Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam delivered a hate-filled speech attacking the Jewish community. He posted a clip of the speech on Twitter where he compared Jews to termites.

“When they talk about Farrakhan and call me a hater, you know what they do, call me an anti-Semite, stop it. I’m anti-termite,” said Farrakhan in Detroit during the 23rd anniversary event for the 1995 Million Man.

Chelsea Clinton condemned Farrakhan’s comments in a tweet.

“Comparing Jews to termites is anti-Semite, wrong, and dangerous. The responsive laughter makes my skin crawl,” Clinton wrote. “For everyone who rightly condemned President Trump’s rhetoric when he spoke about immigrants “infesting our country,” this rhetoric should be equally unacceptable to you.”

Comments like this are not new for Farrakhan, who has a history of making bigoted and racist remarks. In a February speech, Farrakhan said, “Jews are my enemy” and said, “white folks are going down.” The Southern of Law Center has designated the Nation of Islam a hate group.

Bishop Aubrey Shines says prominent Democrats are not doing enough to distance themselves from Farrakhan.

“The reason why Farrakhan has never been denounced is because he represents a voice in the black community,” said Bishop Shines.

In August, former president, Bill Clinton, Al Sharpton, and Rev. Jesse Jackson shared a stage with Farrakhan at Aretha Franklin’s funeral.

“Hate speech only seems to be applicable if it is alleged that it is conservatives, but once it’s under the umbrella of the Democratic party, we don’t hear this outcry,” said Bishop Shines.

Amid the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of the United States, there are growing calls for political leaders on both sides to condemn hateful political rhetoric.

“Tone down the heat, speak words of love and decency, and respect and when that message comes loud and clear, then Americans will hear that, and we will be able to change the tenor of our country,” said Jeffrey Myers, the rabbi at the Tree of Life synagogue, where 11 people were massacred in Pittsburgh.

According to the Anti-Defamation League anti-Semitic hate crimes are on the rise, up 57 percent last year compared to 2016.

Some critics accuse President Trump of fueling a hostile climate in America.

“The country can stop the hate speech. We know it starts at the top,” said Lynette Lederman, former President of the Tree of Life Synagogue.

President Trump, who himself was criticized for saying "both sides" were to blame when a reputed white supremacist drove his car into peaceful demonstrators in Charlottesville, quickly condemned the deadly attack last week on Jewish worshipers in Pittsburgh.

Congressman Steve King, R-Iowa, is also taking heat for his past remarks on white nationalism and after he retweeted messages from a known Nazi sympathizer.

House Republican Campaign Chief, Steve Stivers or the NRCC, condemned Rep. Kings's “recent comments, actions, and retweets.” He added, “we must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms.”

Social media plays a role political rhetoric as well. You can still watch the Farrakhan video on Twitter, and the company says it will not suspend his account. It took Facebook two days to remove the video, and Farrakhan’s page is still online.

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