Democratic Rep. Andre Carson (Ind.) has distanced himself from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's beliefs but refused to condemn him personally or call his remarks "hate speech."
The Indiana Democrat admitted last week that he and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus had met on several occasions with Farrakhan, a notorious anti-Semite and racist who has praised Hitler and believes white people are subhuman devils created by a mad scientist thousands of years ago.
In a follow-up interview with Indianapolis Star opinion editor Tim Swarens, Carson said that he opposes "anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, sexism, racism — all the isms and all the phobias."
But Swarens reported that Carson "avoided criticizing Farrakhan directly, declined to characterize Farrakhan's remarks as ‘hate speech,' and would not rule out meeting with Farrakhan in the future to discuss policy concerns."
"No meetings are planned," Carson said when asked about possible future meetings. "I often attend banquets and other events where I don't know who will be seated near me," he added when Swarens pressed the issue.
Despite refusing to use the term "hate speech" to refer to Farrakhan's comments, Carson used the term readily when criticizing local radio host and political commentator Tony Katz, who has been quite critical of the congressman's association with Farrakhan.
"I think what Tony Katz is doing on WIBC is hate speech," Carson told Swarens. "He's putting my life and my children's lives in jeopardy. He's jeopardizing the lives of staff members in my office."
"It should be easy for him to say, ‘I'll never again meet with Louis Farrakhan to discuss public policy or any other issue,'" concluded Swarens of Carson. "After all, we're talking about the 84-year-old leader of a hate group who has shown no remorse for spreading ugly stereotypes."