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You would think that we were beyond this

Published:

Anti-Semitic Note Attacks Tenn. Lawmaker

Published: 2/14/08, 2:06 PM EDT
By WOODY BAIRD
     

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Steve Cohen, a white congressman representing a mostly black district, is no stranger to political attacks tinged with race. A new political flier circulating in the district is forcing him to confront anti-Semitism, too.

The flier, which showed up in mailboxes this week, aims to rally black Christians to oppose Cohen because he's Jewish. "Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen and the Jews hate Jesus," the flier reads in bold letters.

The origin of the flier was unclear, but Cohen said he worried it was a sign of more nastiness to come during the campaign. It urges voters to unite behind "one black Christian to represent Memphis in the United States Congress in 2008."

"It was very bizarre," said Cohen, a first-term Democrat.

Cohen is the first white congressman from Memphis in more than three decades. Nikki Tinker, a black lawyer expected to be Cohen's chief opponent for re-election in the Democratic primary in August, said she was incensed by the anti-Semitic attack.

"My faith teaches me to love, not hate," said Tinker, who is Christian.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement from Atlanta describing the flier as an attempt "to incite tension between the Memphis African-American and Jewish communities."

The flier, which was also sent by mail to the Memphis Jewish Federation, included a contact name, the Rev. George Brooks, and a phone number in Murfreesboro, a town near Nashville and some 200 miles outside Cohen's district.

A woman who would only identify herself as a friend of Brooks answered a call to the number and said he was out of town. Repeated subsequent calls went unanswered and messages were unreturned.

Cohen easily won the 2006 general election in the heavily Democratic district, but he took a crowded primary with just barely 30 percent of the vote. Four black candidates split almost 60 percent of the vote.

Cohen's most vocal opposition has come from critics arguing that the Memphis district, which is 60 percent black and 34 percent white, should have a black representative in Washington.

Cohen was challenged last year at a meeting of the Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association as being unable to represent the 9th District because of his race.

"He's not black, and he can't represent me. That's the bottom line," one pastor told the local newspaper as the raucous meeting broke up.

The Rev. O.C. Collins, a member of the ministerial association, later invited Cohen to speak at his church as a way to apologize for the group's "impoliteness."

Collins said he wondered why a preacher from another part of Tennessee would care about the Memphis election or launch such a distasteful attack. But he said the anti-Semitic flier is unlikely to sway Memphis voters and the racial arguments will have limited success.

"It stinks. It really, really stinks," he said. "But I think the people Congressman Cohen represents are a whole lot smarter than some people are giving us credit for."



     Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Entry #112

Comments

1.
TenajComment by Tenaj - February 14, 2008, 3:12 pm
This the classic case of "racial bigotry" flipped freaking around. gee The flier mailed was classic too- divide and conquer. When will people learn. It's our own prejudices and bigotries that allow the heads to do what they do to us. Come on Memphis TN - show the world you have grown some since 1960. While you'll fighting the legislature is writing laws to take both of your rights away and your money too.

Join together and fight the real culprits.
2.
spy153Comment by spy153 - February 14, 2008, 3:27 pm
Any good Christian worth his salt wouldn't descriminate a jewish person for the simple reason that they are, were and will always be GOD's chosen people who HE says HE will forgive their transgressions. So we better be nice to them. They have GOD's favor.
3.
justxploringComment by justxploring - February 14, 2008, 4:09 pm
There has been hatred against Jews for thousands of years.
By the way, the pastor who said "He's not black, he can't represent me" obviously never heard of Morris Seligman Dees (a Baptist) Joseph Levin (a Jew) and the Southern Poverty Law Center.   One of the founders was Julian Bond, now chairman of the NAACP.   


First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
    because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
    left to speak up for me.

by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945


4.
spy153Comment by spy153 - February 15, 2008, 9:22 am
Thanks for posting that by the Reverend, Justx. I have been thinking of that writing for a long time now. It is the most relevant writing to our generation., and greatest warning.
5.
Comment by LOTTOMIKE - February 16, 2008, 2:06 am
steve is a good dude.he was the one who in the beginning helped to bring the tennessee lottery to the citizens.this stuff has been going in memphis for years.its really the most racial city any of you will ever visit.i have black,white,chinese friends but really a lot of people here just can't get over race.my brother married outside his race.he moved from here to get away from the bigotry.its really bad.they even have a news special here on foxmemphis called black/white the racial divide.grown people here in this city fighting over racial stuff all the time.
6.
TenajComment by Tenaj - February 16, 2008, 9:32 am
It's everywhere Mike, manifested in different forms, many people and many cultures. I'd rather see it in the form of the way Memphis shows it than for it to be silent with agenda, institutionalized and the pretense that it doesn't exist.

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