TN-09: Racist and anti-Semitic ads from... a Democrat??

bumped from the diaries -- j

Update [2008-8-7 13:29:48 by Jonathan Singer]: A statement from Barack Obama on Tennessee’s 9th Congressional District primary:

“These incendiary and personal attacks have no place in our politics, and will do nothing to help the good people of Tennessee. It’s time to turn the page on a politics driven by negativity and division so that we can come together to lift up our communities and our country,” said Barack Obama.


Ugh, this is disgusting.  Tomorrow, on August 7, Tennessee will hold its primaries, and in Tennessee's 9th Congressional district, where Memphis is located, it's gotten ugly.  This is the seat that used to belong to Harold Ford, Jr. (D), until he gave it up for a Senate run where the GOP ran that ad with the white woman going, "Harold, call me!" (Harold is black.)  Well, when he gave up that seat, it went to fellow Democrat Steve Cohen, who is a white Jew.

And it seems that's become an issue.

In Congress, he's been pretty awesome.  He's MUCH more progressive than Ford ever was, scoring a 96.28% progressive rating on Progressive Punch.  But it seems certain folks in Memphis do not want them to be represented by anyone other than an African-American.  So enter Nikki Tinker ("D"), who's challenging him in the primary.  Cohen had already beaten her in a 15-candidate field in the 2006 primary.

Well, Tinker's people (so she can claim deniability) started in fine force back in February, unleashing this beyond disgusting flyer onto Memphis.

And then you get stupid racists spewing shit like this.

"He's not black and he can't represent me, that's just the bottom line," said Rev. Robert Poindexter of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church.

But now it's gotten even worse.  This week began with Tinker herself releasing this ad associating Cohen with the KKK.

The local Memphis Commercial-Appeal denounced the ad.  (In case you're wondering why he voted that way, RealClearPolitics provides the backstory.  It's basically a jurisdiction issue.)

But that wasn't bad enough.  Tinker then released this ad just today, and it has drawn so much negative reaction from all over the country, that her campaign has already removed it from YouTube.  But we still have the transcript.

CHILD'S VOICE: "Now I lay me down to sleep..."
ANNCR: "Who is the real Steve Cohen anyway?"
CHILD'S VOICE: "I pray the Lord my soul to keep..."
ANNCR: "While he's in our churches, clapping his hands and tapping his feet..."
CHILD'S VOICE: "If I should die before I wake..."
ANNCR: "He is the only senator who thought our kids shouldn't be allowed to pray in school."
CHILD'S VOICE: I pray the Lord my soul to take.
ANNCR: "Congressman, sometimes apologies just aren't enough."
TINKER: "I'm Nikki Tinker, and I approve this message."

The announcer's voice specifically stressed "our" in that ad.  That's about as blatant as an anti-Semitic dog whistle you're ever going to hear on TV.  For this disgusting ad, Keith Olbermann tonight named Tinker today's Worst Person in the World.

EMILY's List, which had actually endorsed Tinker over Cohen, despite his perfect pro-choice record, back in May, condemned the ad too, as if that's really going to matter less than 24 hours before voting ends.  Of course, they could have done what NOW and NARAL did, which was endorse Cohen over a truly despicable person in the first place.

Oh, but that's only half the story.  It gets worse.  Much worse.

Steve Cohen forcibly removed a cameraman from his house who had barged in uninvited to Cohen's hastily-called news conference at Cohen's house to address the religion-baiting ad... and the cameraman is allegedly pressing 'assault' charges. (Video from the local Memphis Fox affiliate is available here.)  The cameraman is an Armenian-American activist and documentary filmmaker who has been stalking Cohen all week; he's not officially affiliated with the Tinker camp, but Armenian groups have given more than $30K to the Tinker campaign because of Cohen's opposition to the bill to call the World War I-era slaughter of Armenians genocide (and thus infuriate Turkey).

Small legalistic note: there's a big difference between some sorehead pressing charges, and the county DA actually following through on them (which I guess we'll find out about that tomorrow). The video shows Cohen escorting the guy out the door with hand firmly on his arm and giving him a shove out the door for good measure; since the cameraman was essentially trespassing, this isn't likely to amount to anything.

Now, it turns out that filmmaker Peter Mursurlian is actually a Republican operative who used to work for former California Congressman Carlos Moorhead (R) of Pasadena.  Also, none of the other Tennessee Democrats are co-sponsoring the resolution either, but none of them have been targeted the way Cohen has been.

I wonder why.

Tags: anti-Semitism, Dirty Tricks, Nikki Tinker, racism, steve cohen, TN-09 (all tags)



Re: TN-09: Racist and anti-Semitic ads from... a D

Thank you for spreading the story on this despicable woman.

I emailed EMILY'S LIST last night and am glad to learn that they condemned the ad.  That they would endorse this woman in the first place is very disappointing.

If she wins, it will be a victory for the hate mongers.

by Radiowalla 2008-08-07 04:34AM | 0 recs
Re: TN-09: Racist and anti-Semitic ads from... a D

What's wrong with endorsing her in the first place?  Were they supposed to know she would run a dirty campaign?

by Steve M 2008-08-07 05:11AM | 0 recs
Re: TN-09: Racist and anti-Semitic ads from... a D

Word is that she'd made it known for a while that she intended to use Cohen's religion against him... I don't know if you trust Josh's sources or not, but TPM reported this wasn't shocking to anyone in political circles.

An organization that is generally as well run as EMILY's List should have known better and they do deserve a dinging for this, if only so they do a better job vetting future candidates.

by zonk 2008-08-07 05:44AM | 0 recs
Re: TN-09: Racist and anti-Semitic ads from... a D

Because they decided to campaign against a pro-choice progressive incumbent.  It's not like the guy is John Barrow: Cohen is a stand-up guy who's been on the right side of the divide since his election.  

Why target a guy who's rated by NARAL and Planned Parenthood as one of the top pro-choice members of Congress?  Even on their key issue, is any woman better than a great man, in the eyes of EMILY's List?

by Jay R 2008-08-07 06:27AM | 0 recs
Re: TN-09: Racist and anti-Semitic ads from... a D

Even on their key issue, is any woman better than a great man, in the eyes of EMILY's List?

Yes. This is rather unfortunate, but Emily's List literally exists to elect pro-choice women to public office.

by blueflorida 2008-08-07 06:35AM | 0 recs
Re: TN-09: Racist and anti-Semitic ads from... a D

Let me qualify: it's unfortunate that Emily's List pushes its committment to such an extreme that quite often they find themselves opposing male pro-choice Democratic incumbents for the sole reason that they aren't women.

by blueflorida 2008-08-07 06:38AM | 0 recs
Re: TN-09: Racist and anti-Semitic ads from... a D


by BlueDiamond 2008-08-07 06:53AM | 0 recs
Re: TN-09: Racist and anti-Semitic ads from... a D

I do not think that was the sole reason.  Or, perhaps it's just a coincidence that they announced this endorsement right after Cohen made a misogynistic comment about Hillary Clinton.

by Steve M 2008-08-07 07:20AM | 0 recs
Kinda extreme, eh?

Making a dumb joke once is a good reason to boot him?

by Dracomicron 2008-08-07 07:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Kinda extreme, eh?

You meant to write "sexist" and not "dumb," right?  I dunno.  I guess everyone has their own degree of tolerance.

If some Democratic Congressman had made a joke comparing Barack Obama to O.J. Simpson, maybe you would be defending them and saying "come on, they made a dumb joke once."  Maybe not.  I think I'd have a pretty negative opinion of such a person.

I'm also not one of those who believe incumbents have an entitlement to their seat and you can only primary them if you have a super-good reason.

by Steve M 2008-08-07 07:39AM | 0 recs
It was dumb because it was sexist

I don't see the contradiction there.

Is McCain's Chelsea Clinton/Janet Reno joke a good reason for him not to be president?  I think there's a host of better reasons.

by Dracomicron 2008-08-07 07:46AM | 0 recs
Re: It was dumb because it was sexist

Of course there are other reasons.  Just like how EMILY's List chose to support a female, pro-choice candidate in this primary, which is their mission.

No one claimed the sole reason for the primary was the sexist joke.  Rather, I was responding to someone who claimed the sole reason was gender.

by Steve M 2008-08-07 07:50AM | 0 recs
Re: It was dumb because it was sexist

Point taken.

by Dracomicron 2008-08-07 10:47AM | 0 recs
Re: I don't see

Well, I think a lot of people would see it that way.  Did you think it was sexist when Hillary Clinton was compared to Tonya Harding?

by Steve M 2008-08-07 07:56AM | 0 recs
Not terribly.

Tonya Harding seemed like  motivated person who did something that she shouldn't.

A lot of politicians are like that.

It's not like he compared her to Lorena Bobbit (which would be way the FUCK over the line).

To make the same point, and to use a man, who would you use?? (I'm thinking... maybe someone who is in the mob).

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-07 08:01AM | 0 recs

... trust me, you'll enjoy it.

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-07 06:59AM | 0 recs

Thank you for this most illuminating diary. While I personally despise Congressman Cohen for his disparging remarks of Hillary Clinton during the primary, he does not deserve to lose based on his race alone.

by Ignored and Disgusted 2008-08-07 04:53AM | 0 recs

There were more than one?

by Dracomicron 2008-08-07 07:34AM | 0 recs
Re: TN-09: Racist and anti-Semitic ads from... a D

That's racial politics for ya.  Really bad stuff, but hey, in a sense it's progress.  Once upon a time only white politicians got to play the "he's not one of us" card, now everyone can play.

This is, I believe, a 60% African-American majority district, and I recall Cohen won his first election with something like 60% of the AA vote.  It will be interesting to see how polarized the vote is this year.  Someday we'll be beyond such tactics, but tribalism is a pretty ingrained instinct and it's easy to appeal to it.

by Steve M 2008-08-07 05:16AM | 0 recs
Re: TN-09: Racist and anti-Semitic ads from...

Please we maybe in Memphis but we are not backwards.  Most of us wont fall for bottom of the barrel politics. She is going to lose big here. That ad was an act of despartation. Tonight Steve Cohen will continue to be the Congressman for TN-09.

by TennesseeGurl 2008-08-07 05:58AM | 0 recs
SkepticalBrotha put it best...

calls her a corporate whore, amongst other things.

As long as you got brothers like that on your side, I figure you'll all do fine...

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-07 06:56AM | 0 recs
I Can't Stand Her !

I am an African American woman who was raised Evangelical Christian and my father , who was a pastor by the way , taught us to reverence the Jewish Community and their faith because we have the same God.

The "God the Father" that we refer to in the Holy Trinity , is the God of the Jews and this idiot is not only being a racist Xenophobic fool , she is being very Un-Christian and borderline blasphemous !

The last time I was this embarrassed by a Black female elected official who made me look stupid because of her actions was that whole hooplah over Cynthia Mc Kinny and her fussing over her hair style.


by BlueDiamond 2008-08-07 06:11AM | 0 recs
This is way, way worse

do read what skeptical brotha had to say on the subject. you might find it ... therapeutic

(plus, he runs a fun blog)

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-07 06:57AM | 0 recs
EMILYs list is dead to me

I will never support that organization again.  And I don't think that any decent Democrat should ever take money from that group again.  I have been absolutely disgusted by the organization holding candidates to no other standards than gender and pro-choice.  

by gavoter 2008-08-07 06:40AM | 0 recs
Pro choice I don't mind

... even if Spector is still a weasel.

I mind the gender. That's needless, and not what that sort of a group should stand for.

Actually, it's more the conflating of the two that is offensive.

I wouldn't mind a "women in office" sort of pac, but i certainly wouldn't contribute to it!

I do agree, Emily's list is dead to me.

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-07 06:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Pro choice I don't mind

Personally, I do not have a problem with an organization whose goal is to elect more members of a traditionally underrepresented group.  That actually seems kinda normal to me.

by Steve M 2008-08-07 07:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Pro choice I don't mind

I agree, but when their tactics lead to a pro-choice incumbent facing a challenge from a less qualified and (it now seems) completely classless opponent simply on the basis of the incumbent having the wrong reproductive organs, I have a problem.

But what REALLY ticks me off?  EMILY's List is throwing their money against NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund's money: they're actually undermining their allies, who know that it's better to reward legislators for good behavior than to punish them for their genitalia.

In any case, I'm sure EMILY's List is going to have fun explaining to their donors why their contributions helped fund an anti-semitic and racist ad campaign.

by Jay R 2008-08-07 09:41AM | 0 recs

I hate to see the money that I have given Planned Parenthood get undermined by EMILYs list.  

by gavoter 2008-08-07 12:00PM | 0 recs
This plays 100% into the neo con memes
that they use against AA candidates in the Jewish community.
Are these people stupid? (rhetorical question, obviously)
Suggestion - send Obama to a Memphis synagogue  this weekend.  This could be his "Sistah Soljah" moment if he plays it right.
by kosnomore 2008-08-07 06:52AM | 0 recs
BTW - these people = Tinker campaign

by kosnomore 2008-08-07 06:53AM | 0 recs
that would be a damn fine move

I cosign that shit.

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-07 07:01AM | 0 recs
Fat chance......

Obama wouldn't even go to Memphis to pay tribute to Dr. King.

by Tolstoy 2008-08-07 07:48AM | 0 recs
Keep 'em coming

every time I think I've seen the stupidest comment possible, you surprise me.

by JJE 2008-08-07 08:50AM | 0 recs
I'm Not Done With This !

I don't care what happens today, I am calling for her removal from the Democratic Party. I know there has to be some rules that deal with this.

She cannot and will not be rewarded for this blasphemy and no, these tactics ain't covered by the First Amendment. This is HATE SPEECH !


by BlueDiamond 2008-08-07 07:07AM | 0 recs
sign me up, sista!

I'll be right there beside you (well, In spirit. I live in liberal appalachia, way up north in da Burgh).

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-07 07:16AM | 0 recs
Go Stillers!

I hope that's what you are referring to.

by JJE 2008-08-07 08:48AM | 0 recs
ayup. Heinz 57 up this way

(my real username has been banned. i'm risingtide. this is my default "they banned me, wtf?" account)

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-07 08:51AM | 0 recs
Racist and anti-Semitic ads from... a Democrat??

VOICEOVER: I am an African-American Male and I do NOT approve of this B.S.

What is starting to bother me about this lovely party of ours is how Democrats are knifing each other in the back with haste because of the weakened state of the Republican party. In many states nowadays, the Democratic Primary IS the General Election. Dems know that if they can get out of the Primary alive, they can just play the Bush card for the general and have a good chance of winning. It's like a Bush/McCain 2000 all over again.

By most accounts, I am an evangelical. And being a native New Yorker, it always bothers me when I see Black vs. Jewish Democrat animosity. Whatever Tinker is smoking, I just hope she didn't get it from Harold Ford.

by xodus1914 2008-08-07 07:22AM | 0 recs
Just from his brother...

Obama came from an evangelical church in the UUC. ;-)

Welcome, -- you look new, and have great comments!

Dems need to stick together, so they don't explode together (just WHAT is that republican party doing with our military??)

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-07 08:04AM | 0 recs
Re: TN-09: Racist and anti-Semitic ads. .

Taking a step back from the hyperbole, you shouldn't count on anyone to be 100% progressive all of the time, and being the only one to oppose the removal of the name of a heinous bigot from a park will surely raise the ire of black citizens whom you purported to represent. People who have fought and died for their own rights get pretty sensitive when you stick a thumb in their eye! That's racial politics. To think that in the heart of the South, a liberal, progressive candidate could be so insensitive as to believe he had a greater duty to party and endorsers than to his constituents!

Tinny may be corporate dog feces, and the ads nauseating, but let's face it, it appears Cohen started his own troubles here.

by Pottery 2008-08-07 07:50AM | 0 recs
talk to me here...

I want more dish!

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-07 08:05AM | 0 recs
are you faulting Cohen

for standing up for separation of church and state?

by Carl Nyberg 2008-08-07 08:50AM | 0 recs
Tinker trying 4 Black vote; EMILY's List foolish

Absent the flyer, I took Tinker's ad to be more about getting Blacks to vote for a Black candidate than pushing Christians to vote for the candidate who goes to a Christian church.

Combined with the flyer, it's certainly a reasonable interpretation that Tinker is tapping into anti-Jewish bigotry.

Tinker attacking Cohen for defending the First Amendment (from a liberal perspective) bothers me quite a bit. She's a tool for the GOP/useful idiot.

And EMILY's List is hurting the Dem Party, and probably its own issues, to help the GOP undermine the Dems in this district.

by Carl Nyberg 2008-08-07 08:40AM | 0 recs
Her godfather's brother...

ran against Cohen as an Independent. Just cause he was black, and Cohen wasn't (okay, there's also entitlement there, no foolin').

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-07 08:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Her godfather's brother...

Black candidates get elected in Black districts.

Tinker is clearly appealing for African-Americans to vote for her b/c she's African-American.

It's not how I would like politics to be, but it is how politics are.

by Carl Nyberg 2008-08-07 08:52AM | 0 recs
and I feel entitled to rail against it

... anyone running in a majority black/ethnic district who can't discuss the ins and outs of White Priviledge doesn't deserve to be running!

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-07 09:07AM | 0 recs
which doesnt make

me want her on my team.

by sepulvedaj3 2008-08-07 09:55AM | 0 recs
left a message

in her "contact us" portion of her website.


Sorry, but I don't find the "racism" and "anti-semitism" section in the "about the isssues" section on your website.

Please update your website to encompass those aspects of your campaign.

Thank You,

Oh, P.S. - I hope you lose today.

Pissed off Christian Minority in New York.


by sepulvedaj3 2008-08-07 10:30AM | 0 recs
Re: TN-09: Please AA voters are not going to

stand for this. I am a AA here in Memphis. We are smarter than most here think. Steve will win hands down.

by TennesseeGurl 2008-08-07 11:40AM | 0 recs
a Democrat??

One of her biggest supporters is Stephanie Tubbs Jones from Ohio.  Maybe we should call her office too.

by Vox Populi 2008-08-07 12:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Republican Operative??

Because he worked for a Republican congressman?
He may be a Republican - but an operative?

Because he wants to see Cohen defeated?
Very, very few Armenian Americans want to see Cohen reelected.
Perhaps like African Americans and Jesse Helms.

by johnnygunn 2008-08-07 03:07PM | 0 recs
Re: PS -

Can you help me with the definition of "stalking"?

Because it sure has pejorative implications.
Is it stalking for a bona-fide reporter to follow a public official and ask difficult questions?  Gee, I thought that was one of the gripes progressives had with the Bush administration, embedded reporters in Iraq, pre-screened questions, etc., etc.

By your definition, then the actions of Shekar Sidarth following the Allen campaign in 2006 could also be defined as "stalking".  You can't have it both ways.  You cannot demand that your opponents be subject to public scrutiny, but your own candidates be shielded.

And as to the specifics of the press conference at Rep. Cohen's house - since he called a press conference in relation to his capacity as a public official - even if at his own home - he made it a public venue.

PPS - And I say this as someone who was glad to see Allen defeated and who believes that Cohen is the far better candidate.  But I believe there should be overarching principles and a higher level of discourse.

by johnnygunn 2008-08-07 03:17PM | 0 recs


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