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House minority leader under fire for ‘vague recollection’ of uncle’s antisemitism

An article New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries wrote in college defending his uncle recently came to light.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). Credit: U.S. House of Representatives Official Portrait via Wikimedia Commons.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). Credit: U.S. House of Representatives Official Portrait via Wikimedia Commons.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) has said for years that he had only a “vague recollection” of controversy surrounding his uncle Leonard Jeffries, who lost his professorship for antisemitic remarks.

But a CNN report last week revealed that not only did the Bingham University Black Student Union, where Jeffries was an executive board member, invite his uncle to speak after his hateful remarks, but Jeffries also penned an op-ed in the student paper defending him and Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan.

“White media” unfairly targeted his uncle and the antisemitic Farrakhan for their criticism of “the longstanding distortion of history,” Jeffries wrote in the op-ed. His uncle had described “rich Jews” in the African slave trade, as well as “a conspiracy, planned and plotted and programmed out of Hollywood” by Jewish executives to disparage Black Americans, according to CNN.

Christiana Stephenson, a Jeffries spokeswoman, told CNN that the congressman “has consistently been clear that he does not share the controversial views espoused by his uncle over 30 years ago.”

Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio), who is Jewish, tweeted that Jeffires “has spent his adult life defending people who make antisemitic remarks”—from his family members to Farrakhan to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

“Those hateful views have no place in the House of Representatives, let alone defended by the Democrat leader,” added Miller. “His pattern of behavior is deeply concerning and worthy of further scrutiny.”

In a statement, the Republican Jewish Coalition demanded that Jeffries explain his defense of his uncle.

“Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries owes the Jewish community an explanation as to why he lied and attempted to cover up his defense of these revolting antisemites,” the RJC stated. “The added hypocrisy here is particularly jarring: Jeffries recently falsely accused Republicans of not wanting to teach children about the Holocaust, but he’s been exposed as defending antisemites who have said Hitler was a ‘great man’ and called Judaism a ‘dirty religion.’ ”

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