Jewish Journal

Anti-semitism again rears its head in Tennessee election

by Brad A. Greenberg

August 7, 2008 | 6:02 pm

Last week I mentioned the entertaining anti-Semitic fan mail I received from George Brooks, a Tennessee minister who has been circulating fliers attacking U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen as “anti-Jesus.” Cohen, as you probably guessed, is Jewish, and as Memphis’ congressional representative is the only white U.S. congressman to hail from a predominantly black district. He’s running for re-election and his opponent today’s Democratic primary is Nikki Tinker, a black attorney.

I don’t know much about either candidate, but I do know that Tinker hasn’t stayed above the fray in her campaign. Her latest ad was so objectionable that it warranted not only the condemnation of the National Jewish Democratic Council, which typical avoids primary fights, but also the criticism of Sen. Barack Obama, whose name you might as a fan favorite of African-Americans. (He’s also running for president.)

“These incendiary and personal attacks have no place in our politics,” Obama said, “and will do nothing to help the good people of Tennessee. It’s time to turn the page on a politics driven by negativity and division so that we can come together to lift up our communities and our country.”

What exactly is so offensive about Tinker’s ad? You can see for yourself in the video above; I’ve posted a summary from ABC’s politics blog after the jump:

Tinker has been accused of playing some of the more ugly racial politics of the campaign season.

She put the image of a Klansman standing before a burning cross in a TV ad to drive home the point that Cohen, as a member of the downtown development board in 2005, opposed renaming a park that is named for Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, a founder of the Ku Klux Klan. (Watch the ad HERE.)

But what aroused the condemnation of Sen. Obama is Tinker’s new TV ad that not-so-subtly points out that Cohen is Jewish.

The ad states that Cohen has voted against allowing children to pray in schools “while he’s in OUR churches slapping hands and tapping his feet.”

“Our” churches?

Even EMILY’s List, which is backing Tinker, condemned the ad. “We were shocked to see the recent ads run by the Nikki Tinker for Congress campaign. We believe the ads are offensive and divisive,” said Ellen Malcolm, the group’s director. “EMILY’s List does not condone or support these types of attacks.”

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