- Civil rights leader
- Founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition
- Has repeatedly threatened businesses with boycotts, negative publicity, and (implicitly) outright violence if they refused to enrich him or his organizations
- Stated that Yasser Arafat's “commitment to justice is an absolute one”
- Described Cuban dictator Fidel Castro as “the most honest, courageous politician I have ever met”
- Also lauded Castro henchman Che Guevara
- Ran twice for U.S. President (1984 and 1988)
- Referred to Jews as “Hymies,” and to New York City as “Hymietown,” in what he thought was a private conversation in 1984
- According to the Communist Party journal Political Affairs, communists were deeply involved with Jackson's 1988 presidential campaign.
- Enthusiastic backer of the community organization ACORN
- Called Ward Connerly, a black California Board of Regents member who once led the fight to end affirmative action in California's public sector, a “house slave” and a “puppet of the white man”
- Condemned Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's vote to place limits on affirmative action programs, characterizing Thomas as an “enem[y] of civil rights” and likening his black judicial robes to the white sheets of Klansmen
- According to James Mtume, co-host of the Open Line Show on New York City radio, Jackson in 2008 privately denounced Barack Obama as a “no-good half-breed ni**er.”
- Supported the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011
- “Racism is a deeply ingrained congenital deformity in the U.S. It is at the root of our society, and it is the rot of our national character.”
See also: Southern Christian Leadership Conference Al Sharpton
Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Campaign for America's Future
Jesse Jackson, Sr. was born in Greenville, South Carolina on October 8, 1941. In 1959 he was accepted to the University of Illinois on a football scholarship, but a year later he transferred to North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. There, Jackson became active in the nascent civil-rights movement and led various protests and sit-ins at Southern restaurants and other businesses. In 1964, Jackson graduated from college with a degree in sociology. The following year he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Alabama, and became the director of Operation Breadbasket, the economic arm of King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Theological Seminary Dropout
In 1966 Jackson moved to Chicago to begin divinity studies at the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS), but his academic performance was abysmal and he dropped out during his first year. Nevertheless, he soon began referring to himself as a Baptist minister. Kenneth Timmerman—author of the book Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson—explains:
“[There is normally] a two- to three-year process for earning that title [Reverend]. Jesse Jackson got himself ordained two months after Martin Luther King was shot. It was essentially a political ordination, a shotgun ordination.... He did not go through this two-year process. He never submitted himself to the authority of the church. He has never had a church himself, and he has been accountable to no one.”
It would not be until the year 2000 that Jackson actually received a Master of Divinity degree from CTS. By that time, his son—Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.—was on the board of the seminary. The younger Jackson had earned his M.A. in theology from that same institution a decade earlier.
Lies about Dr. King's Assassination
Jesse Jackson Sr. clashed with Martin Luther King Jr. on a number of occasions during the Sixties, and he has often overstated the closeness of his relationship to King—even claiming to have been the last person King spoke to after he had been mortally wounded by an assassin's bullet on April 4, 1968. Specifically, Jackson claimed that he was on the balcony with King immediately after the latter had been shot, and that he had cradled the dying civil-rights leader in his arms as he took his final breaths. But in fact, at the moment King was shot, Jackson was actually in a nearby parking lot talking to a group of musicians. Kenneth Timmerman describes what happened next:
“When the shots rang out, he [Jackson] fled and hid behind the swimming pool area and reappeared 20-30 minutes later when the television cameras arrived on the scene. That’s when Jesse Jackson told other Southern Christian Leadership Conference staffers, ‘Don’t you talk to the press, whatever you do.’ ... Nobody had given him that job. He took that job. Call it ‘entrepreneurial instinct’ if you wish, but on the spot he realized that he had an opportunity to spin the events to create his own persona and create a possibility for him to become a leader in the black movement. He had no prospects at that point.”
The next morning, Jackson flew to Chicago to make a guest appearance on the NBC Today Show. In the few hours that had passed between the King assassination and Jackson’s flight to the Windy City, Jackson had already hired a public-relations agent to accompany him as he was transported from interview to interview in a chauffeur-driven car. Before a national television audience on the Today Show, Jackson donned a shirt that he claimed was smeared with the dying Dr. King’s blood. “He died in my arms,” Jackson lied.
Leaving SCLC and Launching Operation PUSH
SCLC appointed King's close associate, Dr. Ralph Abernathy, to succeed the slain leader as head of the organization. This move angered Jackson, who had hoped to be the heir to King's civil-rights mantle. Soon thereafter, a black Chicago Tribune reporter named Angela Parker discovered that, Jackson, in the aftermath of King’s assassination, had embezzled money from Operation Breadbasket. Parker went to Atlanta and presented the evidence to Abernathy, who publicly confronted Jackson with the charges. Abernathy suspended Jackson for sixty days beginning on December 6, 1971, and SCLC board chairman Joseph Lowery charged Jackson with “administrative improprieties and repeated acts of violation of organizational policies.”
At that point, Jackson decided to break away from SCLC and establish his own organization called Operation PUSH (acronym for “People United to Serve Humanity”), which he launched On December 21, 1971. Jackson quickly radicalized PUSH's political agenda, moving to unseat the Chicago delegates of Mayor Richard Daley at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami.
Operation PUSH would eventually become known as the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition (RPC). According to former Black Panther Party leader Eldridge Cleaver, who had broken with the Panthers and become an active anti-communist, the roots of RPC could be traced clearly to the Black Panther movement. By Cleaver's telling, Jackson's group was simply using “warmed over” 1960s-era rhetoric that had first been employed by the Panthers. Cleaver pointed out, for instance, that old Panther newspapers had commonly referred to a “rainbow coalition” of blacks, whites and Puerto Ricans.
In the early days of Operation PUSH, the organization's tactics were essentially the same as those of Operation Breadbasket: targeting corporations that failed to hire blacks or in other ways treated blacks unfairly, and giving assistance to black-owned businesses.
But numerous allegations of extortion and corruption dogged PUSH’s activities over the years, as well as the activities of subsequent Jackson-led groups like the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the Citizenship Education Fund (CEF). CEF, for instance, has received literally millions of dollars via negotiated settlements with companies that Jackson has frivolously accused of racist employment practices. These activities have been documented in numerous sources, most notably in Ken Timmerman’s Shakedown. Indeed, Jackson has repeatedly threatened businesses with boycotts, negative publicity, and (implicitly) outright violence if they refused to enrich him or his organizations. Some examples:
- In 1981 Coca-Cola was induced to award a lucrative syrup distributorship to Jackson’s half-brother, Noah Robinson, in order to prevent Jackson from publicly shaming the company for conducting operations in apartheid-era South Africa.
- Soon thereafter, Coca Cola also granted a distributorship to Cecil Troy, a major financial backer of Operation PUSH.
- In March 1982 Jackson worked out a similar deal with Heublein Corporation, a wine and spirits company that owned Kentucky Fried Chicken. Under that agreement, Heublein promised to spend $360 million over five years with black-owned banks, advertising agencies, and newspapers, and to significantly increase its number of nonwhite franchise owners. As WorldNetDaily reports, “Once again, Noah Robinson cashed in, using the covenant to lock in a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise that would become the launching pad for a fast food empire.” Robinson would later recount: “I told Jesse, ‘If you just do the talking for us—and I handle the financial operations—we can rival the Rockefellers in riches.’”
- Also in 1982, Heublein Corporation donated $5,000 to to help underwrite the annual PUSH convention, and came forth with another $10,000 in November 1983.
- Similar cash contributions to Jackson and his groups came from 7-Up and Coca-Cola.
- In November 1996 Jackson called for a national boycott of Texaco, Inc., saying that economic sanctions were needed to "break the cycle" of racial hostility at the company. He called on Texaco stockholders to sell their shares in protest, and warned that Texaco service stations would be picketed if a quick settlement was not reached. In the largest-ever settlement of its kind, Texaco agreed to pay $115 million to 1,500 current and former black employees; to give all black employees an immediate 10% raise; to provide $26.1 million in pay raises to blacks over a five-year period; and to spend $35 million for racial monitoring and sensitivity-training programs for employees. But Jackson said this was insufficient.
- Laying the groundwork for yet another big payoff, Jackson denounced Anheuser-Busch not only for having too few minority-owned distributorships, but also for allegedly targeting highly potent malt-liquor advertising at minority communities where alcoholism was prevalent. To prevent Jackson from waging a protracted negative-publicity campaign against the company, Anheuser-Busch in 1998 awarded (at a bargain price) a beer distributorship to Jackson’s sons, Yusef and Jonathan, neither of whom had any background in the beer business.
- In February 1997, Jackson filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission to block Viacom's bid to sell 10 radio stations, maintaining that the company had not fulfilled its pledge to sell some of those stations to minorities. In response, Viacom agreed to create a $2 million fund to promote minority ownership of broadcast properties. Jackson then ended his opposition, and the sale was approved.
- In 1998 Jackson tried to block a merger between CBS and Viacom, saying it was "antithetical to basic democratic values." He made it clear, however, that his opposition would cease if Viacom were to sell its UPN network to either of his longtime friends, Chester Davenport or Percy Sutton. In early 1999, CBS and Viacom pledged to give $1 million to Jackson's Citizenship Education Fund (CEF), at which point Jackson's opposition to the merger dissipated.
- In December 1998, Jackson threatened to block the GTE-Bell Atlantic merger unless the two parties made guarantees regarding their commitment to minority hiring and contracting. Over the ensuing four months, GTE and Bell pledged $1.5 million to CEF and gave Chester Davenport a 7% stake of their new cellular business. In May 1999, Jackson approved the merger, which resulted in the formation of Verizon.
- In December 1998, Jackson opposed a merger between AT&T and TCI, citing the latter's "questionable record and ... poor level of public service." But in January 1999, AT&T pledged $425,000 to Jackson's CEF and sent its chairman to one of Jackson's conferences, where he (the chairman) promised to hire a minority-owned firm to handle its bond offering. The firm that was eventually selected for this contract, Blaylock & Partners, had close ties to Jackson.
- According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "Jackson also blocked the  SBC-Ameritech merger until Ameritech agreed to sell part of its cellular phone business to a minority owner, who turned out to be [Jackson's friend Chester] Davenport." (Davenport had no previous telecommunications experience.) "The price you pay for our support," said Jackson, "is to include us." Davenport later hired Jackson's son Jonathan (who also served as president of CEF) as a consultant.
- In 2001 Jackson called for a consumer boycott of the Toyota Motor Company, in retribution for what he characterized as the company's “offensive” marketing materials. The object of Jackson's disdain was a promotional postcard, distributed by the automaker mostly in nightclubs and coffee houses, that showed a smiling black man with the likeness of a gold Toyota sport-utility vehicle adorning one of his teeth. According to Jackson, this “example of extreme stereotypes” had caused “widespread outrage and indignation among African Americans.” “The only thing missing,” said Jackson at a Chicago news conference, “is the watermelon.” The dispute was resolved when Toyota promised to spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year to train and hire more nonwhite minorities, to purchase more goods and services from minority companies, and to earmark more of its advertising dollars for minority-owned advertisers.
- In the summer of 2008, Jackson and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition demanded that the oil giant British Petroleum (BP) increase the involvement of nonwhite minorities in its business practices. Jackson did this in spite of the fact that BP had already paid $10,000 to be a “Bronze Sponsor” of the Rainbow/PUSH's 35th annual conference in Chicago. Peter Flaherty, founder and president of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), stated: “It is pretty obvious what is going on here. BP sponsors Jesse Jackson's conference at the $10,000 level, but the company is certainly capable of a lot more. No doubt, Jackson seeks to upgrade them to the $150,000 'Platinum Sponsor' level for next year.” Added Flaherty: “Nobody likes being called a racist for obvious reasons, but instead of these corporations defending themselves and standing up for themselves, they basically just want to buy off the enemy.”
Commenting on arrangements like these, one corporate executive (speaking on condition of anonymity) said: “It seemed like a shakedown to me. They [Jackson and his organizations] had lists of people they wanted us to do business with, lists of things they wanted us to do, donations and things like that.”
Government Money for Jackson
The federal government has also funneled at least $50 million of taxpayer money into the coffers of Jackson and his various enterprises. The administration of President Jimmy Carter, for example, directed nearly $7 million in government funds to Operation PUSH.
Political Activism and Communist Ties, 1978-1996
In 1978 Jackson won the Eugene V. Debs Award, named in honor of the famed American socialist and union leader.
In 1979, with President Carter’s blessing, Jackson went to South Africa to speak against that nation's apartheid regime.
That same year, Jackson visited the longtime Palestinian terrorist leader Yasser Arafat, whom he judged to be an “educated, urbane, [and] reasonable” man. Jackson also stated that Arafat's “commitment to justice is an absolute one.”
Jackson was a supporter of the Marxist-Leninist regime in the Caribbean island nation of Grenada, a regime which U.S. forces (under President Reagan) overthrew in 1983.
In 1983 Jackson traveled to Syria to negotiate for the release of U.S. Navy Lieutenant Robert Goodman, who had been captured and imprisoned by the Syrian government. Syria paid some of the expenses associated with the trip, which was intended to embarrass the Reagan administration.
In the 1980s Jackson supported CISPES (The Committee in Solidarity with the People of EI Salvador), which backed the communist guerrillas in El Salvador.
In 1984 Jackson, alleging that President Reagan’s economic policies had severely impacted African Americans, made the first of his two runs for U.S. President. Despite a revelation by the Washington Post that Jackson had privately referred to Jews as “Hymies,” and to New York City as “Hymietown,” he received 3.5 million votes during the primaries, enough to guarantee respect within the Democratic Party and the chance to give a major speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention.
The “Hymies/Hymietown” incident merits some explanation: In January 1984 Jackson used those terms during a private conversation with a black Washington Post reporter, Milton Coleman. Jackson assumed—largely because of what he perceived as his racial bond with the black reporter—that the references would not be printed in the media. But a few weeks later, Coleman would permit the slurs to be included in another Post reporter's article on Jackson's poor relations with American Jews. News of Jackson's comments set off a firestorm of controversy. Jackson at first denied having made the remarks, then accused Jews of conspiring to damage his credibility. Ultimately, however, in late February of 1984 he delivered an emotional, conciliatory speech admitting that he indeed had made the remarks in question.
In the January 1984 edition of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) publication Political Affairs, Kevin Mercadel—a Harlem-based organizer for the New York Communist Party—said: “Our '84 electoral activity began with the formation of the Rainbow Coalition in Harlem in support of Jesse Jackson’s campaign for the presidency.” Such support, added Mercadel, “was expected of us.”
A noteworthy individual who worked for Jackson's presidential campaign was Communist Workers Party member Bill Chong, who would later go on to serve as board president of Asian Americans for Equality, deputy commissioner of New York City's Department for the Aging, and commissioner of New York's Youth and Community Development under Mayor Bill de Blasio.
In 1984 Jackson, joined by his longtime advisor (and Communist Party member) Jack O'Dell and U.S. Peace Council member Mary Tate, paid a friendly visit to Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad.
That same year, Jackson took a 300-person entourage (which included Jeremiah Wright) to Communist Cuba to visit Fidel Castro, whom Jackson described as “the most honest, courageous politician I have ever met.” While concluding a speech at the University of Havana, Jackson shouted: “Viva Fidel! Viva Che Guevara!" Castro, in turn, expressed high praise for Jackson: “He is a great personality, a brilliant man with a great talent, capable of communicating with people, very persuasive, reliable, honest. Jackson's main characteristic is honesty. He is sincere and there is not a single bit of demagoguery in his conversations.”
On July 20, 1984, Jackson was a featured guest at a UC Berkeley symposium sponsored by the Marxist magazine Black Scholar; three CPUSA members made presentations at the event.
A noteworthy publication that published some of Jackson's writings during the 1980s was Freedomways, an influential African-American literary and political journal created by the CPUSA. Subsidized by the Soviet and Chinese Communist Parties, Freedomways published from 1961-86.
In 1985 Jackson was the keynote speaker at a 10th anniversary commemoration of “the liberation of Vietnam” (i.e., the Communist victory); the ceremony was sponsored by the Communist Party USA.
In 1988 Jackson made his second bid for U.S. President. He won several Southern primaries and caucuses, showed significant strength in the North by winning the Michigan primary, and was briefly the Democratic frontrunner until Michael Dukakis rallied and claimed the nomination. The issues coordinator for Jackson's campaign was Robert Borosage, who had spent the previous nine years as director of the Institute for Policy Studies.
Longtime Communist Party USA leader Gus Hall endorsed Jackson’s 1988 campaign as a reflection of “a new level of united independent political action, within and outside the Democratic Party.” In July 1988, the Communist Party journal Political Affairs affirmed that communists were deeply involved with Jackson's campaign. And in the July 1989 edition of that same publication, CPUSA member John Holme wrote: “Like many of the campaigns in which Communists play an active role, the Jackson '88 campaign was an ‘inner Democratic Party struggle.’”
In 1991 Jackson was elected as a so-called “shadow senator” representing Washington, DC as an unpaid lobbyist to the U.S. Senate. Advocating DC statehood, Jackson said: “Our quest is simple: fairness and equal protection under the law and equal representation.” Jackson would hold his "shadow senator" post for six years.
During this same period, Jackson was an enthusiastic backer of the community organization ACORN. In 1992, for instance, he spoke at an ACORN “banking summit” where he asked rhetorically: “Why did Jesse James rob banks? Because that’s where the money was.”
In December 1993, Jackson and fellow Rainbow Coalition leader Dennis Rivera, both of whom supported efforts to end the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, together took a five-day holiday in Havana.
In the aftermath of the Republican Party's dramatic takeover of Congress on the strength of the conservative "Contract With America" in 1994, Jackson lamented: “In South Africa, we call it apartheid. In Nazi Germany, we’d call it fascism. Here in the United States, we call it conservatism.” (Click here to view the full text of the "Contract With America.")
In 1996 Jackson was one of the original 130 founders of the Campaign for America's Future (CAF). To view a list of additional noteworthy CAF founders, click here.
Condemning American Racism; Supporting Racial Preferences
The signature theme of Jackson’s career as a civil-rights activist has been his persistent claim that whites are reflexive racists, and that racial progress has proceeded far too slowly and imperceptibly in its treatment of black citizens in recent decades. Calling white racism a problem that “the entire nation has to deal with,” Jackson professes to yearn for a future “in which white Americans will have grown, by overcoming their unfounded fears” of black people. “Racism,” he says, “is a deeply ingrained congenital deformity in the U.S. It is at the root of our society and it is the rot of our national character.”
Jackson trumpeted this same theme as a guest speaker at Louis Farrakhan’s October 1995 Million Man March in Washington, DC. “Now we have the burden of two Americas: one-half slave and one-half free,” he said. Explaining that blacks were “yearning to breathe free,” he exhorted those in attendance to break out of their “shackles” because no one would “free” them voluntarily. “Slave masters never retire,” he said. “Oppressors never retire.” Jackson named, as the principal perpetrators of this “oppression,” law-enforcement officials who “chastise the [black] mothers, ... chase the daddies, [and] lock up the children.” “We [blacks] are under attack by the courts, legislatures, mass media,” he added. “We’re despised. Racists attack us for sport to win votes. We’re attacked for sport to make money.”
Jackson's belief in the omnipresence of American racism has caused him to be a passionate supporter of affirmative action (i.e., race preferences) in employment and college admissions. Invoking the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. to support his position, Jackson has used the term “intellectual terrorism” to describe any suggestion that King, were he alive today, would oppose racial preferences for African Americans. Favoring such preferences in all sectors of U.S. life, Jackson has proposed that in return for the hundreds of billions of dollars that black American consumers spend each year, black business owners should be guaranteed a corresponding share of the service and manufacturing contracts that U.S. companies award. “We must have a plan to achieve equal results,” he asserts.
While corporate America strives relentlessly to increase black participation at every level of its activities, Jackson laments “the corporate lockout” which he says has kept blacks “out of banking and textiles and [the] auto [industry] and food markets and telecommunications.” Explaining that “the walls” must “come down,” whether they be “in South Africa [a reference to that nation’s former apartheid regime] or South Carolina,” he exhorts “Wall Street corporations” to “open up the marketplace” and “let us [blacks] in.”
Jackson holds black conservatives who oppose affirmative action in extremely low regard. For instance, he once called Ward Connerly, a black California Board of Regents member who once led the fight to end affirmative action in California's public sector, a “house slave” and a “puppet of the white man.” He likewise condemned Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's vote to place limits on affirmative action programs, characterizing Thomas as an “enem[y] of civil rights” and likening his black judicial robes to the white sheets of Klansmen.
When California voters in 1996 passed Proposition 209, which eliminated racial preferences from the admissions policies of the state’s university system, Jackson charged that California schools were “cleansing” themselves of black students, and he pleaded with Americans to “pursue the dream of an inclusive society.”
When the Supreme Court ruled in 1996 that gerrymandered voting districts (which were drawn on racial rather than geographic lines so as to virtually guarantee the electoral victories of minority candidates therein) were unconstitutional, Jackson predicted that the Court’s decision to redraw the districts on geographic lines would cause “a kind of ethnic cleansing” in Congress.
On October 27, 1997, Jackson and Rainbow/PUSH joined the League of United Latin American Citizens, the NAACP, and the National Organization for Women in organizing a “civil-rights march” across San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. The stated purpose of the march was “to protest attempts to discriminate against immigrants and dismantle affirmative action.” (At issue was the fact that California was the site of Proposition 209, which had banned racial preferences in the state's public sector, and Proposition 187, which was designed to cut illegal aliens off from taxpayer-funded programs and other benefits.) In a speech at California's state capital (Sacramento) that same day, Jackson said:
“[Dr. King] dreamed ... that the walls of legal structure that separated races would be replaced by a bridge and that under one big tent we could be judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin. The dream is not to be color blind nor gender blind, but to be color and gender sensitive and caring and inclusive.... We choose vision over blindness. We do not need to pray for cataracts over our eyes [but] for clarity.”
Clinton's Special Envoy to Africa
In 1997 President Bill Clinton appointed Jackson as “Special Envoy of the President and Secretary of State for the Promotion of Democracy in Africa.” Not only did Jackson run up exorbitant expenditures in this role ($42.8 million in travel costs alone during a 1998 trip to Africa), but he embraced and praised numerous African dictators including Zambia’s Fredrick Chiluba and Nigeria's Abdulsalami Abubakar.
In 1997, Jackson served on the board of directors of Citizen Action of Illinois.
When Kwame Ture (formerly known as Stokely Carmichael, who led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s) died on November 15, 1998 Jackson eulogized him as “one of our generation who was determined to give his life to transforming America and Africa.” “He rang the freedom bell in this century,” added Jackson.
In May 1998 in Chicago, Jackson was a guest speaker at a “Globalization From Below” conference organized by the Democratic Socialists of America. Other noteoworthy speakers included Dolores Huerta and Luis Gutierrez.
Jackson's Out-of-Wedlock Child
Jackson became one of President Clinton’s spiritual counselors during the Monica Lewinski scandal of 1998. At about the same time, Jackson’s still-hidden mistress, Karin Stanford, was bearing the couple’s child.
Jackson and Stanford (a former University of Georgia assistant professor of African-American Studies) had first become close in the mid-1990s when the latter was writing her 1997 book, Beyond the Boundaries: Reverend Jesse Jackson and International Affairs. Jackson subsequently hired the woman as director of Rainbow/PUSH's Washington bureau. In March 1999 Jackson announced that Stanford would be taking maternity leave for the birth of her child with her lawyer boyfriend. A week later, Jackson announced that he would not seek the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination. Meanwhile, he secretly made financial provision to care for his baby and to keep Stanford quiet about the affair, using funds from the coffers of Rainbow/PUSH to pay the mistress for child support and “moving expenses.” The baby, a girl, was born in May 1999. In January 2001, Jackson publicly acknowledged: "I am father to a daughter who was born outside of my marriage. As her mother does, I love this child very much and have assumed responsibility for her emotional and financial support since she was born."
Defending the Rights of Black Gang Members
In September 1999 a vicious rumble broke out between approximately ten students attending at a high-school football game in Decatur, Illinois. The combatants—all black—were members of rival gangs known as the Gangster Disciples and the Vice Lords. The Decatur High School board, which had adopted a zero-tolerance policy vis a vis violence in the wake of the Columbine high-school massacre of April 1999, subsequently imposed two-year suspensions on six of the teens involved in the Decatur incident, and prosecutors filed felony charges against them. Jackson characterized these penalties as not only unfair, but racist. He minimized the seriousness of the incident by calling it “a schoolyard fight” and “something silly like children do.” He emphasized the fact that one of the suspended boys was an honor student, but did not mention that three of the others were freshmen for the fourth time, and that most of them had long track records of skipping school. Notwithstanding the boys' abysmal academic records, Jackson lamented that, if suspended, they would be “denied an education.”
Supporting Clemency for FALN Marxist Terrorists
During the 1990s, Jackson was a devoted supporter of a campaign advocating clemency for more than a dozen incarcerated members of the FALN, a Marxist-Leninist organization (classified as a terrorist group by the FBI) promoting “clandestine armed struggle” in pursuit of Puerto Rican independence from the “colonial forces of the United States.” The men in question (all of whom had been convicted of particpation in bombings) were ultimately offered clemency by President Bill Clinton in August 1999.
Presidential Medal of Freedom
In August 2000, President Clinton awarded Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Delegitimizing George W. Bush's Election Victory
In December 2000—shortly after the infamous Florida recount controversy had ended with George W. Bush winning the presidency—Jackson called for a “civil rights explosion” to protest that outcome. “We will take to the streets right now, we will delegitimize Bush, discredit him, do whatever it takes, but never accept him,” said Jackson outside the Supreme Court.
Disparaging America's Founders
In a September 2002 speech at Michigan State University, Jackson disparaged the American founders as a “bunch of white men” who did not understand the needs and perceptions of nonwhites, and he described President George W. Bush as a warmonger who “wants to rule the world.”
Accusing NASCAR of Racism
In June 2003, Jackson and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition publicly suggested that the NASCAR auto racing organization was racist because it had not done enough to attract nonwhites to the sport. In response to previous criticisms by Jackson et al., NASCAR officials had recently embarked on a publicity campaign targeting blacks and Hispanics, instituted a “mandated sensitivity program” for all NASCAR employees, and funneled at least $250,000 to Jackson's groups. Notwithstanding these efforts, Rainbow/PUSH board member Bill Shack called NASCAR and other auto racing organizations “the last bastion of white supremacy” in professional sports. Peter Flaherty, founder and president of the National Legal and Policy Center, observed:
“NASCAR kicks in all this money to Jackson's groups, sends representatives to Jackson's conference, and they still get attacked as 'white supremacists.... NASCAR is finding out the hard way that appeasing Jesse Jackson doesn't work. The more you give, the more he demands.”
Project 21 member Kimani Jefferson added:
“It just goes to show that it doesn't matter how much you give to Jackson, you will only invite more hostility. In my view, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Jesse Jackson are interested in nothing more than perpetrating a cult of victimization for profit.”
Supports Voting Rights for Felons
July 2003, Jackson joined NAACP leaders in a protest march on the Montgomery, Alabama Capitol building. The target of this demonstration was Republican Governor Bob Riley and his then-recent veto of a bill that would have expedited the restoration of voting rights to felons who had served their sentences.
Condemning the Iraq War
In July 2004 Jackson characterized the Iraq War as one of America's many “wars of mass deception” and as “a moral disgrace.” Also during the war, he depicted the toppling of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime as “an illegal and unjust act”; he spoke out against the war in conjunction with the United for Peace and Justice coalition (led by the pro-Castro socialist Leslie Cagan); and he denounced the Patriot Act as an assault on civil liberties.
In 2005 Jackson supported the anti-war, anti-American activism of Cindy Sheehan.
Depicting Bush's Response to Hurricane Katrina As Racist
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in late August 2005, Jackson likened that city's evacuation centers—which were disproportionately filled with African Americans—to the “hull of a slaveship.” Moreover, he accused the Bush administration of trying to bus New Orleans' black residents into “permanent exile,” so as to forever “change the character of Louisiana politics.” “Bush isn't planning urban renewal, he's planning urban removal,” said Jackson. “The administration has given the victims of Katrina a one-way ticket out with no plan for their return.” Adding that the New Orleans refugees were now “trapped in those rescue camps,” Jackson proceeded to lead more than 200 of them in a five-bus caravan that started in Chicago and wound through St. Louis, Memphis, Mobile, and Jackson (Mississippi) before finally reaching New Orleans on October 11.
The Duke Lacrosse Case: Charges of Racism
In 2006 Jackson injected himself into a high-profile case involving a black stripper who had accused three white members of the Duke University lacrosse team of having beaten, raped and sodomized her during an off-campus party. The woman's charges triggered an instantaneous eruption of outrage among leftists. Jackson, for one, not only decried the allegedly long “history of white men and black women and rape and assault,” but also announced that his Rainbow/Push Coalition would pay all tuition costs so that the stripper could attend college. It later became evident that the plaintiff's allegations were entirely fabricated, and all charges against the defendants were dropped.
Claiming Racism in Jena, Louisiana
In December 2006, Jackson similarly turned his attention to a racially charged incident that had occurred in Jena, Louisiana—a mostly white town of approximately 3,000 people. Specifically, on December 4, 2006, Jena High School football player Mychal Bell had led a gang of eight to ten fellow black students in pummeling a white 11th-grader named Justin Barker. The assailants beat Barker into unconsciousness in what the Jena Times called “one of the most violent attacks in Jena High School’s history.” (For a detailed background on this incident and the events that preceded it, click here.)
Six of Barker’s black assailants were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder. On September 10, 2007, Jackson went to Jena and threatened to organize a “major demonstration” of perhaps 40,000 angry protesters unless Bell’s sentence was thrown out and the charges against the remaining attackers were reduced to misdemeanors. Four days after Jackson’s threat, Judicial District Court Judge J.P. Mauffray, Jr. vacated Bell’s adult conviction and ordered that he be retried as a juvenile. Nonetheless, on September 20, 2007, tens of thousands of (mostly black) demonstrators from all over the United States descended on Jena to protest the allegedly unfair legal treatment of the six black assailants. Key organizers of the demonstration included Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Comparing the case to seminal civil-rights moments like the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, Jackson said: “In Jena, for those who have been under the illusion that changes have occurred, this is a wake-up call.”
Jackson and the 2008 Obama Campaign
In September 2007, Jackson sharply criticized presidential hopeful Barack Obama's allegedly tepid response to the Jena incident. Impugning Obama for “acting like he’s white,” Jackson said: “If I were a candidate, I’d be all over Jena.... Jena is a defining moment, just like Selma was a defining moment.”
Though Jackson endorsed Obama for U.S. President in 2008, he became embroiled in controversy for some comments he unwittingly made over an open microphone that July in the Chicago studio of Fox News. Jackson, who was about to appear live on Fox & Friends along with Dr. Reed Tuckson, told Tuckson, in a voice that was barely more than a whisper, that he disapproved of Obama's recent Father's Day speech chastising black fathers for not living up to their responsibilities. Said Jackson, “See, Barack's been, ahh, talking down to black people ... telling niggers how to behave ... I want to cut his nuts off.” According to James Mtume, co-host of the Open Line Show on New York City radio, Jackson actually went so far as to denounce Obama as a “no-good half-breed ni**er.”
In October 2008, Jackson, speaking in France at the first World Policy Forum, predicted that an Obama presidency would bring “fundamental changes” in U.S. foreign policy—most notably by ending America's “decades of putting Israel's interests first,” and by standing up to “Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades.” “Barack is determined to repair our relations with the world of Islam and Muslims,” Jackson elaborated. “Thanks to his background and ecumenical approach, he knows how Muslims feel while remaining committed to his own faith.”
When asked whether an Obama presidential victory would close the “chapter” of black grievances linked to the legacy of slavery, Jackson responded: “No, that chapter won't be closed. However, Obama's victory will be a huge step in the direction we have wanted America to take for decades.”
Jackson was also asked whether Obama—who is not a descendant of slaves—was in fact representative of a typical American black. He replied: “You don't need to be a descendant of slaves to experience the oppression, the suffocating injustice and the ugly racism that exists in our society. Obama experienced the same environment as all American blacks did. It was nonsense to suggest that he was somehow not black enough to feel the pain.”
Further, Jackson expressed his belief that Obama, as president, would apologize for the “arrogance of the Bush administration,” and would thereby help America to “heal wounds” it had inflicted on other nations.
Keynote Speaker for CAIR
In March 2010 in Michigan, Jackson was the keynote speaker at a major fundraising banquet held by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Jackson Says the Repeal of Obamacare Would Lead to "Creeping Genocide"
In a November 2010 interview on MSNBC, Jackson was asked "If they [Republicans] repeal health care [Obamacare], what are we facing in this country, a social push-back of some sort? What do you think, Reverend Jackson?" To this, Jackson replied: "Well, a kind of creeping genocide.... So this really is a—a mass march for the kind of humane—human destruction, of the likes of which we've never known. We deserve better.
Supports Occupy Wall Street
In the fall of 2011, Jackson supported the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. In a speech to Occupy London (OWS's contingent in that city), he said: “Jesus was an Occupier, born under a death warrant, a Jew by religion, born in poverty under Roman occupation. Gandhi was an Occupier, Martin Luther King was an Occupier, [Nelson] Mandela was an Occupier.”
Jackson revisited this theme at an Occupy Chicago event in April 2012, when he made reference to the gospel story of Jesus clearing the money-changers out of the Temple in Jerusalem: “But why was he killed? Because he fought, and he occupied the corrupt Temple. He went to the house of prayer to pray, and found corruption [in] the holy place.” Jackson also made reference to a poor woman in that story, describing her as part of “the 99%.”
The Trayvon Martin Killing
Jackson reacted passionately to a February 26, 2012 incident in Sanford, Florida, in which a “white Hispanic” man named George Zimmerman had shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American. (Zimmerman was not subsequently put in jail, because police said there was no evidence to contradict his claim that he had acted in self-defense.) Jackson, however, declared that Martin “was shot down in cold blood by a vigilante.” Among Jackson's other comments about the incident were the following:
- “I hope that this will be a transformative moment.”
- “There is power in blood.... [W]e must turn a moment into a movement.”
- The failure to jail Zimmerman was “a source of embarrassment [to America] and humiliation [to blacks],” and it detracted from America's “moral authority” to address injustices in other countries.
- Martin's killing reflected “the classic struggle of our time” and was reminiscent of the 1955 slaying of Emmitt Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago who was murdered by a group of white men in Mississippi (a case that helped galvanize the early civil-rights movement).
- “Blacks are under attack.”
- “Our [racial] disparities are great. Targeting, arresting, convicting blacks and ultimately killing us is big business.”
- “Racism is too real to be dismissed.... Maybe this case is kind of the tipping point that gives us insight into just how hard it is to be black in America.”
- “There was this feeling [with Obama's presidential victory] that we were kind of beyond racism. That's not true. His victory has triggered tremendous backlash.”
- In an April 2012 interview, Jackson said of George Zimmerman: “We are going to finally get this guy.”
- Trying to use Trayvon Martin's killing as a rallying cry for African Americans to vote on election day, Jackson urged black voters to wear hooded sweatshirts [as Martin had worn on the night of his death] to the polls: “So wear your hoodie, put a voter registration card under your hoodie. If you have a hoodie without a voter card you've been hoodiewinked.”
When Zimmerman was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in a July 2013 trial, Jackson wrote an op-ed in the Chicago Sun Times, where he said:
If Trayvon Martin were not a young black male, he would be alive today. Despite the verdict, it’s clear that George Zimmerman would never have confronted a young white man wearing a hoodie.... Trayvon Martin is dead because Zimmerman believed that “these guys always get away” and chose not to wait for the police.
Trayvon Martin’s death shatters the convenient myths that blind us to reality. That reality, as the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board wrote, is that “black men carry a special burden from the day they are born.” ... Trayvon Martin was assumed to be threatening just for walking while being young, black and male.
That is the reality that can no longer be ignored. Through the years, gruesome horrors — the murder of Emmitt Till, the shooting of Medgar Evers in his front yard — have galvanized African Americans and public action on civil rights. Trayvon Martin’s death should do the same.
What it dramatizes is what Michelle Alexander calls “the New Jim Crow.” Segregation is illegal; scurrilous racism unacceptable. But mass incarceration and a racially biased criminal justice system have served many of the same functions.... The U.S. now imprisons a greater percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid.
In schools, zero tolerance — once again enforced disproportionately against people of color — results in expulsions, creating a virtual pipeline to prison.
The results are devastating. Young fathers are jailed. Children grow up in broken homes, in severe poverty, since those convicted never really leave prison. They face discrimination in employment, in housing, in the right to vote, in educational opportunities, in food stamps and public support. As Alexander argues, the U.S. hasn’t ended the racial caste system, it has redesigned it.
As Trayvon Martin’s death shows us, the norm increasingly is to police and punish poor young men of color, not educate or empower them. And that norm makes it dangerous to be young, black and male in America....
We need a national investigation of the racial context that led to Trayvon Martin’s slaying. Congress must act. And it’s time to call on the United Nations Human Rights Commission for an in-depth investigation of whether the U.S. is upholding its obligations under international human rights laws and treaties. Trayvon Martin’s death demands much more than a jury’s verdict on George Zimmerman. It calls for us to hear the evidence and render a verdict on the racial reality that never had its day in court at the trial.
Jackson also condemned Florida's "stand-your-ground" law permitting people to use deadly force if they felt that their lives were in danger, even though that law did not factor at all into the jury's verdict vis a vis Zimmerman. Said an angry Jackson: "No doubt, the inclination is to boycott Florida, stop conventions, to isolate Florida as a kind of apartheid state ..."
Condemning Gun Manufacturers
On January 14, 2013, Jackson told a television audience that "assault weapons" represent a threat to homeland security because they are capable of shooting down airplanes, and that gun manufacturers should be held responsible for criminal shootings:
“These semi-automatic weapons, these assault weapon[s], can only kill people and in fact are threats to national security. The young man who did the killing in Aurora, Colorado with the arsenal he had. He was right near the airport, right near the runways near the airport in Denver. He could shoot down airplanes. so this is a matter of homeland security… We need to make manufacturers more accountable for their product.“
Calling for the Use of Private Pension Funds to Loan Money to Poor Communities
In January 2013, Jackson spoke at the 16th annual Wall Street Project Economic Summit (hosted by the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the Citizenship Education Fund). In his remarks, Jackson discussed a proposal, which he likened to the Marshall Plan, to use pension money to make loans in low-income communities:
“We’ve got to think outside the present fiscal-cliff-debt-ceiling box. We must have some plan for reconstruction.... New York would be a great place to do this. You’ve got Harlem and Wall Street on the same island.... We bailed out the banks. We didn’t bail out the victims of the recession.”
Eulogizing Hugo Chavez
In March 2013, Jackson attended the funeral of Hugo Chavez, the socialist, anti-American president of Venezuela. Said Jackson: "How do we measure a great leader? By how he treats the least of these. Hugo fed the hungry. He lifted the poor. He raised their hopes. He helped them realize their dreams. And so today we do mourn, because we’ve lost a life."
Lamenting the Poor Condition of Black America
Addressing the National Urban League's annual conference in July 2013, Jackson said, "If you're someone with credit card debt, stand." In response, many in the audience rose to their feet. "If you're someone with student loans, stand," he continued. By this time, nearly everyone in attendance was standing. "And if you're someone looking for a job, stand," Jackson added, causing many more people to raise their hands. "That's the state of black America," he declared. "We are free but not equal. Free to be unemployed."
"Apartheid Remains" in America
In early December 2013, Jackson compared the work of the recently deceased Nelson Mandela in South Africa, to that of the late Martin Luther King, Jr. in America. “For almost 30 years, we [black Americans] had a lead jump on [the] right to vote and used that right to vote to empower allies in South Africa,” said Jackson, adding that “we called it ‘segregation,’ they called it ‘apartheid,’ it’s the same system and the same political and military and diplomatic players. We had to fight that same system running parallel.” Jackson also indicated that apartheid still had not been abolished from the United States:
“Apartheid remains. Apartheid gaps in poverty and healthcare and education. We’re in the middle of the end of the apartheid struggle even now — it’s just changed phases.”
Accusing a Republican Congressman of Racism
At a March 5, 2014 House Oversight Committee hearing into the IRS scandal (where the agency had delayed or denied approval for tax-exempt status to hundreds of conservative organizations), former IRS official Lois Lerner repeatedly invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to testify -- just as she had previously done on May 22, 2013. This caused House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa to adjourn the meeting. At that point, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings asked for an opportunity to read a partisan message, but Issa refused. When Cummings began to scream angrily at Issa, the chairman had Cummings' microphone shut off. The following day, Jesse Jackson tweeted: "Congressman Darrell Issa's behavior was crude, wrong, racist and mean towards Congressman Elijah Cummings. Do you agree?"
Calls a Police Shooting of Black Teen a "State Execution"
On August 15, 2104, Jackson was interviewed on MSNBC television regarding a white Missouri police officer's recent (August 9th) killing of an unarmed 18-year-old black male named Michael Brown in circumstances that were not yet clear -- a killing that had set off several days of violent riots by local blacks claiming that Brown was murdered in cold blood as he held his hands in the air and tried to comply with the officer. Referencing a newly released store surveillance video showing that Brown had forcibly robbed a convenience store just 10 minutes prior to his death, Jackson said: "The fact of the matter is that the police have released this report, this video seven days later, but how many times was he shot? And where was he shot? And why [did] he lie in the street for several hours? That was a kind of state execution. But it's such a pattern. It's Trayvon [Martin] shot and the killer walks free. It's Oscar Grant in Oakland. It's Abner Louima in New York. Unless we have some White House policy on urban policy and reconstruction that all these cities are like dry [slave] ships." (Evidence eventually showed that Brown in fact had assaulted the officer and tried to steal his gun just prior to the shooting. For details, click here.)
The Little League Baseball "Persecution"
On February 11, 2015, the all-black Jackie Robinson West baseball team that had won the U.S. Little League championship six months earlier, was stripped of its title when League officials discovered that the squad had knowingly fielded a number of players who hailed from outside of the permissible geographic boundaries and thus were ineligible. When Little League Baseball President Stephen Keener announced the ruling, he also announced the suspension of the team's manager, Darold Butler, and the removal of Illinois District 4 administrator for Little League, Michael Kelly. Jackson reacted to the move by saying: “This decision is untimely and inappropriate at this time. It should not take six months after a team has played a championship game to determine eligibility to play the game in the first place. Is this about [geographic] boundaries or race?” “This is persecution,” added Jackson, who said he planned to hold a rally for the team on February 14. “This is not right, it is unnecessary and it is not fair.”
At the February 14 rally, Jackson led the hundreds who attended in chants of “Save the children” and “Keep hope alive.” When reporters asked him what lesson may have been learned as a result of the scandal, Jackson replied: “You don’t have to be guilty to be crucified.”
For additional information on Jesse Jackson, click here.
 Kenneth R. Timmerman, Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson (Regnery, 2002), p. 22.
 Kenneth R. Timmerman, Shakedown, pp. 90-91.
 "Duke Election Symptomatic of U.S. Racism: Jackson," Jet (March 6, 1989), p. 7.
 "What's Ahead for Blacks and Whites?" Ebony (November 1990), p. 76.
 Jesse Jackson, et al., "The Continuing American Dilemma," New Perspectives Quarterly (Summer 1991), p. 10.
 "Excerpts from Jackson's Address to Washington March," The New York Times (October 17, 1995), p. A20. Million Man March, televised on C-SPAN (October 16, 1995).