CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Pressure is building for local elected officials and candidates to denounce the anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT comments of hate group leader Louis Farrakhan as two organizations, one local and one national, speak out against hate.
The short statements from the local Mecklenburg Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Political Action Committee, or MeckPAC, and the national Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, follow several days of repeated refusals by elected officials to condemn Farrakhan’s comments.
“While attendance at a single event where a featured speaker holds views that are different from those of MeckPAC and many of its supporters is not grounds enough to retract an endorsement, MeckPAC’s Steering Committee is disappointed that candidates and elected officials who were in attendance are not willing to reject prior anti-LGBT and anti-semitic stances from the featured speaker,” MeckPAC’s statement, made on Tuesday evening, read. “If the candidates and elected officials truly represent all the residents in their districts, then certainly they can represent the LGBT and Jewish constituents by rejecting his harmful rhetoric.”
The Victory Fund’s statement, also made on Tuesday evening, read, “We hope all civic leaders condemn anti-LGBT and all forms of hate speech, as we do unreservedly.”
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Mecklenburg County Commission Chairman Harold Cogdell, Commissioner Vilma Leake and Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield each attended at least one event where Farrakhan was a featured speaker.
At an Oct. 13 speech by Farrakhan, Mayfield sent a message to her followers on Twitter that said Farrakhan was “doing God’s will.” Democratic commission candidate Kim Ratliff also attended the same event and retweeted, or shared, that message to her own followers.
Mayfield has repeatedly refused to go on-record with this newspaper and condemn Farrakhan’s past anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT comments. Her refusal has taken center-stage in the ongoing controversy, given her position as the city’s first and only openly LGBT elected official.
On Wednesday, Ratliff told qnotes she condemns discrimination “of any kind.”
“I’m against discrimination of any kind whether it’s Farrakhan or whoever,” she said. “I’m not for any kind of discrimination. I don’t support it now and have no intentions of supporting discrimination in the future.”
Ratliff previously told the newspaper she attended the Farrakhan speech in support of a friend and campaign volunteer who had recently converted to Islam.
Cogdell responded to a request for comment via text message, saying, “I disagree with many comments that Minister Farrakhan has made over the years.” He did not respond to further questions asking to which comments he was referring and if he was willing to condemn Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT comments.
qnotes attempted to reach Mayfield and Leake several times via email and telephone. Requests for comment, which included the verbatim text of the two LGBT groups’ statements, were not returned. Mayfield is among several local officials, including Cogdell, who are attending an inter-city visit to New York City this week.
Republican commission candidate Wayne Powers, who previously raised concerns about Farrakhan’s visit last week, said MeckPAC’s statement didn’t seem to go far enough.
“The beginning of it seems incongruous with the rest of it,” he said. “They did not address, you’ll notice, enthusiastic tweeting or distributing of commentary that is enthusiastically in support of the speaker. They didn’t mention that, which both [Mayfield] and [Ratliff] did.”
Powers said Mayfield’s and Ratliff’s public messages in support of Farrakhan surpassed mere attendance at the event. “Making public commentary on the internet which commends and sings the praises of the speaker is not just attendance.”
He also called upon elected officials to condemn Farrakhan’s history of hateful remarks and questioned those who haven’t.
“It would seem the very least that any public official could do would be to condemn messages of hate and division which assault our community and as far as Mr. Farrakhan’s appearance in our community, I consider that an assault,” Powers said. “For them not to condemn it, for them not to even acknowledge how vile and repulsive it really was is to me absolutely stunning.”
In a separate written statement sent to qnotes on Oct. 20, Powers criticized MeckPAC for not taking a stronger stance on the issues and not holding candidates and elected officials more accountable on LGBT issues. In particular, he took issue with his political opponent Ratliff and her attendance at the Farrakhan event.
“She reportedly ‘justified’ her enthusiastic attendance at the Farrakhan event to MeckPAC by claiming she was ‘not aware’ of Farrakhan’s well-established record of hate speech against LGBT people and others, but then stated that she would have attended anyway, even if she had been aware of them,” Powers wrote. “All of that (and so much more) is somehow ‘okay’ with her endorsers at MeckPAC, an organization claiming official ‘non-partisan’ status and supposedly with the important charge of educating and holding candidates and elected officials ‘accountable’ on LGBT issues. In my opinion, MeckPAC has proven themselves a fraud.”
Powers has previously criticized MeckPAC for what he calls “overt partisanship” after they failed to endorse him in November’s general election race. He says his own outspoken support of inclusion has cost him political support among some conservatives.
MeckPAC endorsed Leake and Ratliff in this year’s election on Nov. 6. In years past, they also endorsed Cogdell, who is not running this year. Additionally, MeckPAC endorsed Mayfield and contributed $1,000 toward her campaign in 2011.
The Victory Fund contributed $2,000 toward Mayfield’s campaign.
Local foundation declines to condemn anti-Semitism, anti-LGBT hate
After repeated requests by qnotes, The Foundation For The Carolinas, which oversees the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund on whose advisory board Mayfield sits, has declined to condemn anti-Semitism and anti-LGBT hate. The Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund provided more than $100,000 in funding to local LGBT organizations this year.
Mayfield, who has similarly refused to condemn the kind of hate preached by Farrakhan, sits on the Charlotte & Lesbian Gay Fund’s board. The foundation was asked if the actions and statements of Mayfield violated their organizational values and if they would be willing to go on-record with a statement condemning anti-Semitism and anti-LGBT hate.
Tara Keener, the foundation’s assistant vice president for communications, said the organization is “politically neutral” and “cannot provide advocacy for or against particular points of view.” Keener also said the foundation “does not monitor the private speech of donors or members of the advisory board.”
Asked if the foundation would also have no comment on an advisory board member who, first, said a neo-Nazi, Ku Klux Klan or other hate group leader (who have views similar to Farrakhan) was “doing God’s will” and, second, refused to condemn the hateful rhetoric of the man or woman they praised, Keener said, “No, the Foundation has no further comment.”
“Our record speaks for itself,” she said.
[Ed. Note — This writer served a brief term as a volunteer member of the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee’s steering committee during his hiatus from the newspaper this past spring. He no longer serves on the organization’s committee and had no special or prior knowledge of the organization’s general election endorsements or endorsement process.]