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High-Profile Democrats to Steer Clear of Embattled Women's March

Women's March

High profile Dems are staying away from the organization whose leadership has been accused of endorsing anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. 

Two years ago the record-breaking Women's March became a rallying point for people demanding intersectional gender parity while also acting as a strong rebuke against the election of Donald Trump. But the official organization has since faced scrutiny over some of the organizers' apparent support of anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, and several organizations that formerly backed the event, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the political action committee EMILY's List, have pulled support. Now several high-profile possible Democratic presidential candidates will not be attending the Women's March while the Democratic National Committee has distanced itself from past associations with the national event.

"The DNC stands in solidarity with all those fighting for women's rights and holding the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers across the country accountable," an official from the DNC said, according to Buzzfeed News.

The official also clarified that while the DNC has partnered with the Women's March on various projects, it has never been an official sponsor of the national march.

Among those Democratic presidential possibilities who have been confirmed to be skipping the Women's March for various reasons are Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro, Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Sherrod Brown, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Beto O'Rourke, Buzzfeed News reports.

In recent months, organizations and individuals, including formerly ardent supporters like Alyssa Milano and Debra Messing, have vowed not to participate in the official Women's March following accusations of anti-Semitism and homophobia on the part of organizers Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez, and Bob Bland.

Last November, Teresa Shook, who first conceived of the march as an answer to Trump's election, called for those organizers to resign in light of having brought "anti-Semitism, anti- LBGTQIA sentiment and hateful, racist rhetoric" into the movement." Shook wrote in a Facebook post:

"Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez of Women's March, Inc. have steered the Movement away from its true course. I have waited, hoping they would right the ship. But they have not. In opposition to our Unity Principles, they have allowed anti-Semitism, anti- LBGTQIA sentiment and hateful, racist rhetoric to become a part of the platform by their refusal to separate themselves from groups that espouse these racist, hateful beliefs. I call for the current Co-Chairs to step down and to let others lead who can restore faith in the Movement and its original intent."

The co-presidents of the march, Mallory and Sarsour, have been called out for their support of the Nation of Islam (which the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed a hate group) and its leader, Louis Farrakhan, who has famously made anti-LGBTQ and anti-Semitic remarks. Mallory attended an incendiary speech by Farrakhan last March and for some time refused to denounce him. Then Sarsour defended both Mallory and the Nation of Islam.

Mallory was present at the speech where Farrakhan said, "The powerful Jews are my enemy." Later, she received a shout-out from him and posted about the event on social media.

Last October ally and activist Milano, who spoke passionately at the first Women's March, told The Advocate that she would not speak at the event again.

"Any time that there is any bigotry or anti-Semitism in that respect, it needs to be called out and addressed. I'm disappointed in the leadership of the Women's March that they haven't done it adequately," Milano said.

Soon after, an early supporter of the Women's March, Will & Grace star Messing joined Milano in denouncing the event by simply cosigning Milano's sentiments in a tweet.

"I stand with you, Alyssa Milano," Messing tweeted.

The Women's March, on its official Facebook page, responded with a statement of support for Mallory and Sarsour.

"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. "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."

Furthermore, in a Facebook response to Shook's calls for them to step down, Mallory, Sarsour, Perez, and Bland made it clear that they would not abandon the organization:

"Today, Teresa Shook weighed in, irresponsibly, as have other organizations attempting in this moment to take advantage of our growing pains to try and fracture our network. Groups that have benefited from our work but refuse to organize in accordance with our Unity Principles clearly have no interest in building the world our principles envision. They have not done the work to mobilize women from diverse backgrounds across the nation."

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Tracy E. Gilchrist