Kristen Clarke was a natural choice to be Joe Biden’s pick for the next assistant attorney general for civil rights. Clarke is the head of the left-wing Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and served in a similar position in the office of New York state’s attorney general.
Clarke’s enthusiastic support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement gives her exactly the sort of left-wing credentials Biden’s transition team wanted, with her nomination earning plaudits from all of the usual Democratic interest groups. The selection also garnered approval from the liberal Anti-Defamation League, which is somehow still treated as a reliable antisemitism watchdog despite its embrace of partisan politics.
Clarke’s Senate confirmation, however, may prove a heavier lift than anyone in Biden’s camp imagined when her name was announced along with attorney general pick Merrick Garland and the rest of the proposed leadership for the Department of Justice.
While in college, Clarke advocated for Afrocentric racist theories of black superiority and hosted then defended a notorious antisemite. Even more recently, she endorsed Tamika Mallory when the head of the Women’s March faced documented charges of antisemitism and support for racial hatemonger Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam.
If she were a Republican who had, say, endorsed white supremacy while in college, that would be the end of her nomination, even if the events in question took place 26 years ago, as they did with Clarke.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was branded a rapist over uncorroborated accusations about an event that allegedly took place in high school. Court of Appeals Judge Naomi Rao was raked over the coals during her confirmation hearings over an op-ed she wrote as an undergraduate at Yale University in which she made the anodyne observation that both men and women who are under the influence of alcohol must be held responsible for their behavior.
But since the news about Clarke’s past became known, the legacy media has treated it as a non-story. Just last month, The New York Times thought a story about an ordinary Tennessee teenager uttering a racist slur in a three-second video three years ago was worthy of the front page of their Sunday edition, yet hasn’t printed anything about Clarke’s history. Nor has the Washington Post. Neither CNN nor MSNBC has uttered a word about the story.
Control of the Civil Rights division of the DOJ is a big deal for how far the government will go to back up the BLM movement, support race-based admissions, and institutionalize critical race theory in the upcoming years.
The fate of Clarke’s appointment is important for another reason. It’s a test case to see whether the way the media handled last fall’s Hunter Biden controversy — in which The New York Post’s story of the younger Biden’s influence-peddling was boycotted by corporate outlets — was a one-off that won’t be repeated, or if it reinforces a precedent that will ensure that any controversy that embarrasses a Democrat can and will be ignored by mainstream outlets with no consequences. So far, it’s pretty clear which way this is going.
In December 1994, Clarke co-authored a letter-to-the-editor of the Harvard Crimson as part of a debate about Charles Murray’s controversial book “The Bell Curve” and its discussion of differences in cognitive ability between human races. But in attacking Murray’s claims, Clarke put forward a counter-theory in which she argued research showed that African-Americans were the superior race, writing, “Melanin endows blacks with greater mental, physical and spiritual abilities — something which cannot be measured based on Eurocentric standards.”
A month later, in her capacity as head of the Black Students Association, she invited Wellesley College professor Tony Martin to speak at Harvard. Martin was a rabid antisemite and Holocaust denier who had published a book called “The Jewish Onslaught” that attacked Jews and Judaism. Yet, in the Crimson, Clarke defended him saying, “Professor Martin is an intelligent, well-versed black intellectual who bases his information [his antisemitic slurs] on indisputable fact.”
Seeing the need for some damage control, Clarke gave an exclusive interview to The Forward, a left-wing Jewish online site that gave Clarke a chance to spin the controversy. To The Forward, Clarke claimed her paean to black racial superiority wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. It was, instead, a parody that was intended to be read as exposing the absurdity of Murray’s claims in “The Bell Curve.” Yet it reads instead as a straight-forward defense of crackpot race theories promoted by the Nation of Islam and Farrakhan.
For her invitation and defense of Martin, Clarke admits she was wrong. The words “apologize,” however, or any acknowledgment of the effect of her behavior on other students, was absent from the interview.
Clarke now says she “unequivocally denounce[s] antisemitism,” and backs up the statement by mentioning that while working for the New York AG’s office she “promoted religious accommodation, combated religious discrimination and ensured that Jewish employees were given flexibility so that they could observe the Sabbath.”
While that’s commendable, it’s hardly courageous. Accommodating religious observance wasn’t optional, and had she refused to accommodate Jewish employees, she would have been sued.
The Forward also asked why Clarke stood by the leaders of the Women’s March when they were called out for their antisemitism. Mallory marginalized and excluded Jews from the group’s leadership. She’s also a vocal supporter of Farrakhan and appeared at a Nation of Islam gathering and cheered him. Yet Clarke signed a letter defending Mallory, who has gone on to be a prominent voice in the BLM movement.
Rather than make amends for that stand, Clarke doubled down:
The marginalization of women of color is a threat to disrupt democracy, and what led me to join that letter was a grave concern about seeing another woman of color marginalized and silenced. Let me be clear, I denounce antisemitism wherever and whenever it shows up.
But the first part of that statement gives the lie to the last part. Given an opportunity to “denounce antisemitism,” Clarke prioritized defending “women of color,” even if they were guilty of promoting hate. This means the person Biden is trusting with the nation’s civil rights policy thinks antisemitism is bad unless it involves people “of color.”
While Senate Republicans will likely grill Clarke over her past, her fate depends on whether Democrats prioritize partisanship over principle. That will be made a lot easier if the mainstream media continues to give her the Hunter Biden treatment. It will also be helped if partisan Jewish groups like the ADL similarly decide that their BLM ally’s fate is more important than doing their job and fighting antisemitism.
Sadly, if Clarke is confirmed, it will mean Biden’s campaign pledges about fighting hate and antisemitism will be abandoned even before he begins to govern.