Actress/activist Alyssa Milano made it clear this week she will not speak at the next Women's March due to its co-presidents' refusal to distance themselves from bigoted Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Now, the Women's March is denouncing Farrakhan for his derogatory comments on Jewish and queer people, while defending Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, the Women's March officials who expressed support for Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam in the past.
"Women’s March wouldn’t exist without the leadership of women of color, and we stand with Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory. Women's March leaders reject anti-Semitism in all its forms," the organization announced on Facebook. "We recognize the danger of hate rhetoric by public figures. We want to say emphatically that we do not support or endorse statements made by Minister Louis Farrakhan about women, Jewish and LGBTQ communities."
The statement went on to suggest anti-Semitism is solely in the realm of Republicans without acknowledging anti-Jewish fervor from figures on the left.
"It's important to remember that many on the right are thrilled to use any tool they can find to divide and undermine our movement -- one that inspired the #WomensWave we saw this week in the midterm elections," the statement said. "Our women of color leaders at the Women’s March have risked their safety to build a bold direct action strategy that addresses the real threat against our communities and country - the threat of white nationalism, which is fueled by anti-Black racism and anti-Semitism.
"We all know the real cause of violence and oppression of our communities. This is well-documented and inspired by vile rhetoric coming from the Trump administration and from members of the Republican Party."
Mallory and Sarsour have yet to personally speak out against Farrakhan's homophobic, transphobic, and anti-Semitic statements. Farrakhan is an admirer of Adolf Hitler, having called the genocidal dictator "a great man." In a 2006 speech, Farrakhan said, "It's the wicked Jews, the false Jews, that are promoting lesbianism, homosexuality." In 1996, he told a crowd, "God don't like men coming to men with lust in their hearts like you should go to a female. ... If you think that the kingdom of God is going to be filled up with that kind of degenerate crap, you're out of your damn mind."
Just a week before the shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue, Farrakhan tweeted out a speech in which he announced, "I'm not an anti-Semite. I'm anti-Termite."
Mallory sat in the audience while Farrakhan gave a hateful speech in March in which he said, "The powerful Jews are my enemy," She also received a shout-out from him and posted about the event on social media.
Mallory has posted pictures with Farrakhan on Instagram, with captions such as "Thank God this man is still alive and doing well. He is definitely the GOAT [greatest of all time] Happy Birthday @louisfarrakhan!"
Sarsour has passionately defended Mallory, writing on Facebook, "I don’t think these people have our best interests at heart to make us better people or to disrupt misconceptions or anti-Semitism because trashing a strong black woman and holding her accountable for the words of a man is not the way to bring people together."
She then defended the Nation of Islam despite its history of stances against Jewish and LGBTQ people.
"What work are we willing to do and are we willing to be open to the true idea that members of the NOI are not all anti-Semites?," Sarsour asked. "Are we cool with broad brushing a whole group?"
The widespread criticism of Sarsour and Mallory's refusal to condemn Farrakhan's statements was best encapsulated by trans activist Ashlee Marie Preston.
"The reality is, at the end of the day, you cannot be an ally if you are an ally to the people who are harming us," Preston explained in a Facebook video responding to Mallory's op-ed defending her relationship with Farrakhan, titled "Wherever My People Are Is Where I Must Be." "But I thought I was your people too, sis. Am I not a black woman? Am I not a black person?"
"This is a larger part of the conversation about how the African-American community still continues to cherry pick which black lives are important and which ones aren't," Preston commented, "Personally, I think Louis Farrakhan is trash, fight me."