An NAACP leader indefinitely suspended for anti-Semitic comments about Al Gore’s running mate has resigned to form a new civil rights coalition and refuses to apologize for his remarks on Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the first Jew named to a major national party ticket.
But Lee Alcorn, who resigned Wednesday afternoon from the NAACP after two decades of service, drew nationwide rebuke. NAACP national President Kweisi Mfume had suspended Alcorn that morning, saying he found his comments on a Gospel talk show about Lieberman to be “anti-Semitic and anti-NAACP.”
Alcorn, the Dallas NAACP branch president, said Monday that Gore’s selection of Lieberman—an Orthodox Jew—as a running mate was “suspicious.”
But Julian Bond, chairman of the national NAACP board of directors, called Alcorn’s remarks “hateful, repulsive and ignorant.”
Other civil rights leaders and religious groups also criticized Alcorn’s attack on Lieberman and supported the senator’s selection by the Democratic presidential candidate, revealed Monday.
“I support Lieberman being on that ticket strongly,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking at the White House shortly after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. “When we live in our faith, we live under the law. He is a firewall of exemplary behavior.”
Jackson, asked whether Alcorn’s remarks indicate a coming backlash of anti-Semitism, said, “We’re going to have more expressions of darkness, but we’re also going to have more expressions of light. The forces of light will dispel those forces of darkness. We will prevail.”
Alcorn, speaking on Fort Worth, Texas radio station KHVN’s talk Show, said Monday: “If we get a Jew person, then what I’m wondering is, I mean, what is this movement for, you know? Does it have anything to do with the failed peace talks?”
“So I think we need to be very suspicious of any kind of partnerships between the Jews at that kind of level because we know that their interest primarily has to do with money and these kind of things,” Alcorn said.
A spokesman for the Gore-Lieberman campaign, Jano Cabrera, said in a statement: “It’s clear that Mr. Alcorn’s views did not reflect those of the NAACP nor those of most African-American community leaders.”
A spokesman for Texas Gov. and Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush also condemned Alcorn’s statement.
“When it comes to fighting anti-Semitism, Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney stand shoulder to shoulder with all Americans in condemning such foolish utterances,” Ari Fleischer, a presidential campaign spokesman, said.
Mfume said in his fax to Alcorn, “Your comments do not reflect the views or values of the NAACP, our board, staff or membership.”
Suspended Three Times
But Alcorn, who had been suspended three times by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People during his five years as Dallas chapter president, said the organization has lost its focus on civil rights.
“The focus now is to raise money or to keep NAACP chapter presidents like myself who criticize the organization, to keep them in their place by revoking or suspending their membership,” Alcorn told The Dallas Morning News, adding he was leaving the organization because “I can no longer work under these restraints.”
He said he had anticipated a break with the NAACP and so had formed his own civil rights organization, the Coalition for the Advancement of Civil Rights.
“I misspoke by making reference to Jews and Jewish people,” Alcorn said, but added that his radio show comments were taken out of context. “I should have made my comments specifically to Lieberman.”
In a prepared statement, the American Jewish Congress applauded the NAACP action.
“It will take more than one bigot like Alcorn to shake the sense of fellowship of American Jews with the NAACP and black America,” Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen and Executive Director Phil Baum said. “Our common concerns are too urgent, our history too long, our connection too sturdy to let anything like this disturb our relationship.”
Residents in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie said Alcorn is a quiet neighbor who occasionally waves to others as he mows his lawn and plans block parties to bring unity to the middle-class, ethnically diverse area.
“As far as a neighbor goes, he’s been good,” Lewis D. Cash told the Arlington Morning News. “I’ve never seen or heard him do like you see on TV.
“I heard the comments,” said Cash, 54. “They sounded racist.”