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The media campaign to impose Cory Booker, rich white people’s favorite Black politician, on Black America, has begun in earnest – again. Booker, the one-term Newark city councilman who challenged Mayor Sharpe James in 2002, is making another run next year, and is certain to raise millions of dollars through his deep connections to the corporate Right, and to benefit from millions more in free publicity from corporate media.

The Public Broadcasting System, which is far more corporate than public, donated 90 minutes of free propaganda time to Booker on Tuesday night, in the P.O.V. pseudo-documentary, “Street Fight” – a disgraceful presentation totally devoid of journalistic merit. Lies of omission are still lies, and what was omitted in “Street Fight” was the core issue of the 2002 campaign, the issue that led to Booker’s defeat: his intimate entanglement with rightwing forces that are totally inimical to Black interests.

We at The Black Commentator ought to know, since we provided Mayor Sharpe James (and our readers) with the ammunition that sank Booker’s ship – that he is, as we wrote in our inaugural issue, “a cynical pretender who attempts to position himself as the common people's defender while locked in the deep embrace of institutes and foundations that bankroll virtually every assault on social and economic justice in America.” (See BC, “The Hard Right’s Plan to Capture Newark, NJ,” April 5, 2002.)

Cory Booker is, in a phrase coined by Harvard’s Dr. Martin Kilson, a Black Trojan Horse “functioning as an errand boy Black politician for [the] conservative Republican power-class.” His political buoyancy – despite being out of public office for three years – is derived from a rightwing network that cultivated the Yale and Stanford graduate as their own Great Black Hope, building him a bigger war chest than a four-term incumbent mayor who is the most powerful Black politician in the state. Those same forces lobbied corporate media to make Booker their Golden Boy, resulting in the most intensive coverage of a Newark election since Kenneth Gibson became the first Black mayor of the city in 1970 – all of it fawningly favorable to Booker.

The reactionary columnist George F. Will even came to Newark to put a gloss on the Booker campaign. ABC News attempted to sucker Mayor James into engaging Booker in a nationally televised debate, an event that would have given Booker a country-wide platform as a New Black Leader. Wisely, Mayor James refused. The far-right Free Congress Foundation praised Booker as one of four “New Black Leaders” – along with three Black Republicans.

Man with a rightwing plan

Booker methodically developed his Republican and corporate Right connections, teaming up with wealthy white Republican businessman Peter Denton and former GOP Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler to form the school vouchers advocacy outfit Excellent Education for Everyone (E-3), which is lavishly funded by the Walton family, the reactionary heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune. Booker journeyed to Milwaukee for the founding of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), a pro-voucher group that was a joint venture of the Waltons and the Bradley Foundation, both of which contributed nearly a million dollars. The Bradley Foundation also provided about a million dollars to support the work of Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, which alleges that Blacks are intellectually inferior to whites. Booker became a board member of BAEO. He had entered the matrix of evil.

Next stop, the Bradley-funded Manhattan Institute, where Charles Murray was a Bradley Fellow. The Manhattan Institute is a “think tank” that specializes in media manipulation. Booker got the Right’s formal seal of approval on September 20, 2000, when the Institute showcased him at a luncheon – in effect, telling the rightwing network that he was their guy. Booker said all the right words, denouncing “entitlements” and “redistribution” of wealth. He was a hit, and soon rightwing outfits across the nation were singing his praises, and preparing to fund his mayoral campaign. The Right’s media specialists went to work, too, touting Booker as the up-and-coming Black leader.

None of these machinations were understood by the Black political class in Newark, who don’t live in such a world. BC realized that an unprecedented rightwing offensive was underway, aimed at capturing an important Black-majority city. So we told the mayor that a train was hurtling down the tracks in his direction, filled with cash and media power. Sharpe James wasn’t up against a 32-year-old neophyte politician, but facing the massed resources of the corporate Right. Cory Booker was just their front man. We advised that the mayor’s campaign focus on Booker’s allegiances to rich, reactionary whites. As Booker’s campaign war chest grew and grew, Mayor Sharpe James finally got the point.

By the last weeks of the campaign, BC articles and Dr. Kilson’s “Trojan Horse” letter had become the staples of Sharpe James’ campaign literature, distributed not just by city workers and volunteers, but by hundreds of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members on the streets of Newark. Visitors to the mayor’s campaign website were instructed, first, to visit BC, before clicking to the mayor’s picture or other campaign material.

We exposed Cory Booker as “totally cynical, careerist and mercenary,” as BC Co-Publisher Glen Ford was quoted in a front page story of the New York Times, just two weeks after the founding of The Black Commentator. The Right “is backing him so they can claim a black elected official from a black city.”

Lies, distortions and false framing

It is nonsense to say that the 2002 campaign was about Booker’s light complexion. Since when has that been an impediment to political, economic or social advancement in Black America? Nor did Mayor Sharpe James harp on Booker’s youth, which would only have drawn attention to James’ age. The campaign was substantive: Cory Booker supports vouchers, and is entangled with the worst enemies of Black people. White corporate media chose to frame the contest in non-substantive terms, of age, education, and complexional hue. When Booker was charged with not being “Black” enough, it concerned his political associations, which are whiter than white, and richer than almost everybody.

PBS’s “Street Fight” filmmaker, Marshall Curry, was an extension of the Cory Booker campaign – just as BC acted in opposition to Booker. The difference is, we told the truth about real political connections and events, and Curry, a young white man, totally deleted everything of political substance. The word “vouchers” did not appear in the 90-minute film, although it was a key issue in the campaign. The heavily promoted film was hyped as “charisma meets coercion in a Newark election year,” and portrayed Booker as an underdog. An underdog with millions more dollars than his opponent, universal support of the corporate media, and a national network of very rich people behind him?

Every single media outlet in the New York area market supported Booker. Yet Curry claimed “the Booker team is struggling to get the press to show the outrage” of the mayor’s supposed bullying tactics. The truth is, Booker could not win on the streets of Newark, because he is not from them, and neither were many of his transplanted staff. In the end, enough people were made to realize that he is a fraud in service of his own – and other, very dangerous people’s – ambitions.

Glen Ford and Peter Gamble, Co-Publishers of, are writing a book on Barack Obama and the Crisis in Black Leadership.

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July 7 2005
Issue 145

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