CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On Friday afternoon, Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners Chairman Harold Cogdell replied to a qnotes inquiry regarding his recent attendance at events headlined by hate group leader Louis Farrakhan. The leader and his group, Nation of Islam, have a long history of anti-Semitism and hostility toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Cogdell’s comments were sought as a part of a Friday morning story exploring several elected officials’ attendance at the events and openly lesbian Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield’s refusal to
condemn Farrakhan’s past comments.
In his reply, which is printed in its entirety below, Cogdell said he has “no regrets” after attending Farrakhan’s events. Like Mayfield, Cogdell also refused to condemn Farrakhan’s hate speech.
On Thursday, Mayfield, who had earlier said Farrakhan was “doing God’s will,” told qnotes that she would not condemn Farrakhan’s comments.
“No, I’m not going to condemn a man for his past, just like I would not want anyone to try to condemn me for my past,” she said. “Each day that we live there is a hope that we are going to learn and we’re going to grow and we’re going to do something better than we did the day before. So, why would I condemn because that’s not my place. That’s the place of God.”
Pressed further to condemn Farrakhan’s comments, rather than Farrakhan as a person, Mayfield still declined. “It’s not my place to condemn anything that someone else does, whether it’s in the past or it’s in the future,” she said. “That’s their pathway and their road with their religious beliefs in getting to greater enlightenment.”
Other local elected officials have already disavowed hate.
“I will always reject hate speech whether it’s from the pulpit or in front of a women’s reproductive health clinic,” Councilmember John Autry said. “We have no place in our society for such rhetoric.”
“I condemn hate in any form,” said Charlotte Mayor Foxx.
“I did not and would not attend any thing he spoke at,” said Councilmember Claire Fallon. “As far as I am concerned it would be like me sitting with David Duke or Flip [Benham].”
Cogdell’s full response
As you have already reported, I did attend an event on Saturday at Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church where Minister Louis Farrakhan delivered the keynote speech. I am well aware of Minister Farrakhan’s past comments before attending that many, in some instances including myself, would find offensive. There are many statements that Minister Farrakhan has made over the years that I do not agree with. However, I completely agree with his 1st Amendment Constitutional Right to express his opinions. There were statements made by Minister Farrakhan this past Saturday about the need for more individual self-sufficiency and personal accountability that I do agree with.
I have no regrets for having attended this event nor will I publicly condemn Minister Farrakhan’s history of offensive comments. I do believe that our community and nation would all be better served if everyone would carefully and thoughtfully consider the content of their speech prior to sharing thoughts and opinions. All of America would be better served if we opened our minds and critically listened to perspectives other than those that we have become indoctrinated to follow.
It is interesting that your editorials would so readily express shock and outrage about some of the very people that have time and time again advocated for and supported the interest of the LGBT Community. I supported including sexual orientation in the City’s anti-discrimination charter language in 2003 while serving on the Charlotte City Council, supported adoption of a Domestic Partner Benefit’s program for county employees in 2009, personally drafted the RESOLUTION HONORING, SUPPORTING AND PAYING TRIBUTE TO COMMUNITY VALUES THAT EMBRACE AND PROMOTE EQUALITY, DIVERSITY, TOLERANCE, INCLUSION, RESPECT AND CIVILITY in 2011 that included language condemning bullying, intimidation, harassment, persecution or discriminatory treatment of any individual and partially drafted, placed on the BOCC agenda and supported a resolution opposing the adoption of Amendment One just this year. I would add that Commissioner Leake also supported these actions taken by the Board of County Commission.