He said “death to,” and the Iranian audience responded with “America” and “Israel,” but Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan insists he never led chants of “death to America.”
Mr. Farrakhan described as “wrong and shameful” international media reports that he led anti-American and anti-Israel chants last weekend during his ongoing solidarity tour of Iran, which was timed to the reimposing of U.S. economic sanctions.
“I never led a chant that called for the death of America or Israel, contrary to misreporting in U.S., British and Jewish publications and the intentional, malicious and false reinterpretation of my words,” said Mr. Farrakhan in a statement posted Thursday.
Of course, the first “death to America” news dispatch came from Iranian state television, part of a Tehran media blitz showcasing Mr. Farrakhan’s takedowns of U.S. foreign policy as the Trump administration moves to exit the 2015 nuclear deal brokered by President Barack Obama.
Mr. Farrakhan drew more headlines Thursday by comparing President Trump to Satan and warning him not to “pull the trigger of war in the Middle East at the insistence of Israel.”
“The Christians say that Satan is a liar, and every day they keep a count of Trump’s lies,” Mr. Farrakhan said at a meeting with Mohsen Rezaee, secretary of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council, which serves as an advisory board to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, according to the Jerusalem Post.
In other words, the 85-year-old Farrakhan has yet to cool his rhetoric despite coming under fire last weekend for the “death to America” at the University of Tehran.
Audio and video from his appearance show him speaking the Farsi words for “death to,” which sound like “marg bar.”
“America hates when you say, ‘marg bar Israel.’ Am I saying it right?” asked Mr. Farrakhan, flanked by Iranian officials, at an appearance before students and media.
Several people in the audience corrected his pronunciation. He then said “marg bar” twice, to which they answered “America” and “Israel.” The crowd laughed as a smiling Farrakhan then shouted, “Okay!”
Does that mean he led a chant? The Iranian television announcer thought so, saying in Farsi, “Listen to the leader of the Nation of Islam chanting ‘Death to America,’” although Mr. Farrakhan did not say “America.”
“I asked a question about how to pronounce the chant in Farsi during my meeting with Iranian students and an examination of the video shows just that,” said Mr. Farrakhan. “My point was to engage students in a talk about what gives a nation perpetuity versus that which undermines and destroys a nation.”
Iran state TV news presenter: Listen to leader of Nation of Islam chanting “Death to America”
Farrakhan [in Farsi]: “Death to…”
Audience: “…America” pic.twitter.com/p0qGfHHfg0
— Sobhan Hassanvand (@Hassanvand) November 4, 2018
Not everyone was buying his explanation, given that the automatic rejoinders to “death to” in Iran would be “America” or “Israel.”
Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson called his denial “extremely unpersuasive, given his history,” a reference to Mr. Farrakhan’s record of anti-Semitic jabs, such as last month’s tweet referring to Jews as termites.
“If his defense is he only spoke the words ‘death to,’ but he didn’t lead the chant, that seems to be the equivalent over what the definition of ‘is’ is,” said Mr. Jacobson, who runs the conservative Legal Insurrection blog.
After the “death to America” exchange, Mr. Farrakhan told the university audience, “If you mean death to America, death to Israel, then you must mean life for Islam, life for Iran, life for Muslims.”
Mr. Farrakhan also blasted the U.S. sanctions as “unjust,” and warned the crowd not to trust the U.S. government.
“That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t communicate with America, but you should know who you’re communicating with,” Mr. Farrakhan said. “You’re communicating with those who make promises that they never intend to keep.”
His incendiary missives during the high-profile Iran tour come at an awkward moment for his progressive U.S. supporters, starting with Women’s March leaders Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour, as they prepare for a third massive anti-Trump rally in January.
Actress and liberal activist Alyssa Milano said last week she won’t speak at the march in Washington, D.C., unless his Women’s March allies denounce him for his anti-Semitism.
“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,” Ms. Milano told The Advocate.
Congressional Black Caucus members have also come under fire for meeting and appearing with Mr. Farrakhan over the years, and while several have condemned his more inflammatory remarks, they have steered clear of criticizing him personally.
In his Thursday statement, Mr. Farrakhan insisted that “I am not and have never been an enemy to America, nor the people of America.”
“However, I love America enough to speak unpleasant truths that are in the best interests of an erring nation that perhaps she may change her conduct and course,” he said.