Opinion: Jesse Jackson, embroiled in a new furor, has been here before

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Jesse Jackson should have long ago learned the dangers of speaking too bluntly with the media anywhere in sight (or, in the controversy that erupted today, a microphone anywhere near).

Jackson, before this year, laid claim to running the most noteworthy campaigns an African American had waged for the White House. In the 1988, in fact, he was a major factor in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination -- he won 11 primaries and caucuses, briefly led in the delegate count in the early spring and was the last challenger standing against the eventual nominee, then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

The groundwork for this strong showing had been laid by his candidacy four years earlier. But his 1984 campaign remains best remembered for the flap over disparaging comments he made about Jews and New York City.


As recounted in this post on, Jackson ‘referred to Jews as ‘Hymies’ and to New York City as ‘Hymietown’ in January 1984 during a conversation with a black Washington Post reporter, Milton Coleman.

Jackson had assumed the references would not be printed because of his racial bond with Coleman. But several weeks later Coleman permitted the slurs to be included far down in an article by another Post reporter on Jackson’s rocky relations with American Jews. A storm of protest erupted ...’

A ‘storm’ of protest hasn’t yet greeted the revelation that Jackson -- ostensibly a Barack Obama supporter -- used crude language a few days ago as he waited to appear on Fox News Channel and, in a whispered aside to another guest, expressed his view that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has been ‘talking down to black people.’

One very strong protest, however, was issued this evening by Jackson’s son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois. The congressman’s office e-mailed this statement (complete with three sentences boldfaced):

‘I’m deeply outraged and disappointed in Reverend Jackson’s reckless statements about Senator Barack Obama. His divisive and demeaning comments about the presumptive Democratic nominee -- and I believe the next president of the United States -- contradict his inspiring and courageous career.

‘Instead of tearing others down, Barack Obama wants to build the country up and bring people together so that we can move forward, together -- as one nation. The remarks like those uttered on Fox by Revered [sic] Jackson do not advance the campaign’s cause of building a more perfect Union. ‘Revered [sic] Jackson is my dad and I’ll always love him. He should know how hard that I’ve worked for the last year and a half as a national co-chair of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. So, I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric. He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself.’

On a lighter note, to check out what our friends at The Swamp aptly refer to as a ‘now-prescient Saturday Night Live cartoon’ on an imagined Obama-Jackson-Al Sharpton dynamic, go here.


-- Don Frederick