Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan charged Monday that Mayor Tom Bradley had "bowed to the pressure of the Jewish community" in making critical remarks about him and his speech Saturday night.
Farrakhan, at a press conference at the Los Angeles temple of the Nation of Islam, further accused Bradley of showing a "contempt for truth and a contempt for black people" by basing his criticism on news reports rather than listening to the full speech.
Bradley said Sunday that Farrakhan's speech contained a "strong undercurrent of anti-Semitism," adding: "I repudiate racism, hatred, violence and bigotry . . . by whoever utters . . . it . . . I make no exception. This includes Minister Farrakhan."
Assailing the mayor's comments, Farrakhan said, "Mayor Bradley said he condemns racism, bigotry, and anti-Semitism and violence, and he linked my name to such. Yet, there is no record of my having been involved in any violence. . . .
"Where is the bigotry and racism in my statements?" Farrakhan asked in a prepared statement.
"Mayor Bradley said 'there was a strong undercurrent of anti-Semitism' in my speech. I ask the mayor to come before the black people and clearly point out these anti-Semitic statements."
In his speech before 12,500 at the Forum, Farrakhan laced a call for black self-determination and economic separatism with several anti-Jewish statements. He described Israel as a "wicked hypocrisy" and said of the Holocaust: "Don't push your 6 million down our throats when we lost 100 million (to slavery)."
Responding to Farrakhan's comments Monday, Bradley denied that he had "bowed to pressure" from Jewish leaders. In a statement Bradley said:
"I speak and act based on conscience and conviction and what is best for our entire community. My remarks . . . reflected my beliefs and I stand by those statements. They were not made in response to pressure, but rather because I felt a need to speak out and reaffirm my personal commitment to justice and my strong opposition to efforts which divide, rather than unite, our people."
Because of Farrakhan's past anti-Semitic remarks, Bradley had been pressured by Jewish community leaders to speak out on the controversial minister before his appearance. Black leaders, however, persuaded Bradley to wait until Farrakhan had spoken. The mayor was strongly criticized by many Jewish spokesmen for his silence.
On Sunday, Bradley claimed "partial success" in his efforts to defuse the controversy, citing Farrakhan's cancellation of television and radio appearances in Los Angeles before his speech, and the fact that Farrakhan, as he put it, had "toned down his words."
Farrakhan, his voice hoarse after his more than two-hour speech, called the mayor's claim "foolishness."
He said he had neither agreed to any interviews, nor canceled them, nor agreed to temper his speech. "The mayor's representatives got no statement from me or my representatives that I would compromise truth to pacify Jews or anyone else," Farrakhan said.
At his press conference, Farrakhan's bodyguards frisked media representatives and searched their camera equipment. The 52-year-old leader spoke in a room usually used for services at the Crenshaw Boulevard temple. He stood in front of a large red and white Nation of Islam flag, featuring a star and crescent.
Asked what he thought he had accomplished in Los Angeles, he replied:
"I showed black people victory, of blacks over Jewish intimidation. . . . If the controversy, which is really imagined between the mayor and myself, has done anything, it has highlighted (that) black people in high positions owe too much to Jews and too little to themselves and their own people."
Clearly referring to Bradley, he warned that "no black leader who bows to the pressure of intimidation from Jews . . . will be considered as a leader of black people."
But he also said later that "I have no animosity towards the mayor. I love him as a brother and wish the best for him."
Increasingly angered by reporters' questions, he responded sharply to a newsman's comment that Jewish and black groups had been getting along before he came to Los Angeles.
"There is no black-Jewish relationship on the mass level," Farrakhan said. "That's a farce. The kind of relationship we have with Jews I'm interested in ending is that landlord-tenant relationship, that we-clean-your-house relationship."
He abruptly ended the news conference after labeling as "stupid" a question about his previous statements on Hitler (he once described Hitler as a "great man").
Also attending the press conference, along with several Muslim followers and Farrakhan's wife, Betsy, was Danny Bakewell, president of the black community organization Brotherhood Crusade.
One of the leaders who had urged Bradley to refrain from speaking about Farrakhan before the speech, Bakewell said Farrakhan's speech "was not anti-Semitic. It was pro-black."
Other black leaders, such as John Mack, president of the local Urban League, agreed.
"I felt Minister Farrakhan's speech was somewhat restrained," Mack said. "I felt the predominant message was economic development. There were statements that had some (anti-Semitic) overtones but I did not think the Saturday night speech was anti-Semitic."
Referring to Farrakhan's statement that blacks, not Jews, "are the chosen people of God," Mack said he believes "all people are God's chosen people. I sometimes think these theological differences sometimes are misunderstood as anti-Semitic."
Calling Bradley's remarks "appropriate," Mack said they demonstrated "that Mayor Bradley is the mayor of all the people, including black people, in not allowing himself to be pressured into making a premature statement."
Foresees No Problems
Bakewell said he did not believe there would be any problems between local blacks and Jewish leaders as a consequence of the Farrakhan visit.
"I don't think there will be any fallout," he said. "Why? It seems to me the relationship should go forward. We may need a clarifying of understanding but that's about it."
Mack said, "After 22 years of a close relationship with the Jewish community, if there are some people who cannot get past one major disagreement, I'm not sure if there ever was a positive relationship with those people. I'm sure most Jewish leaders know Tom Bradley has been their friend and will be their friend."
Farrakhan "has been saying much the same types of things for 20 years, including derogatory things about black leadership and ministers," said Mark Ridley-Thomas, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
"More important than debating the specifics of this speech, I think, is that there has been an important redefinition of the relationship between blacks and Jews. We can say 'no' in good faith and in good conscience."
Ridley-Thomas said that since the controversy arose last week, several Jewish leaders, including one Los Angeles City Council member, have approached him privately and said they are eager to heal the rift between blacks and Jews, a move Ridley-Thomas called "most welcome."