Biden DOJ Nominee Conceals Ties To Anti-Semitic Professor

Kristen Clarke edited a journal alongside poet who blamed Jews for 9/11

Kristen Clarke / Getty Images
April 30, 2021

Archived copies of a scholarly journal show Justice Department nominee Kristen Clarke listed on the masthead alongside an anti-Semitic writer with whom she claimed under oath she has never collaborated.

The revelation could prompt charges that she gave inaccurate answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Clarke told lawmakers that she has never worked with Amiri Baraka, the Marxist and anti-Semitic black nationalist who accused Israel of having advanced knowledge of 9/11 in a 2002 poem. Both Clarke and Baraka are listed as editors of the journal Souls at least eight times over two years.

While Clarke's denial may not technically amount to perjury, less-than-candid responses have proved fatal for other nominees of both parties. Ryan Bounds, a Trump judicial nominee, withdrew from consideration for a vacancy on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after Democrats charged that he tried to conceal bombastic writings from his college years. Goodwin Liu, an Obama nominee for the same court, withdrew after he failed to disclose dozens of speeches and articles.

In a written supplement to Clarke's April 14 confirmation hearing, Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) asked Clarke a series of questions about Baraka and an article he wrote comparing police officers and judges to the Ku Klux Klan. The article is called "Mumia, Lynch Law, and Imperialism." "Mumia" refers to Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for murdering a police officer in 1981.

Lee asked Clarke whether she served "on the editorial staff of a journal with Amiri Baraka." She answered "no."

The Washington Free Beacon reviewed eight editions of the journal in question, Souls, A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society, on Taylor & Francis, the international publisher of scholarly journals. The editions were published quarterly in 1999 and 2000. In each edition, Clarke is listed on the masthead as an assistant editor while Baraka is listed as a contributing editor.

Baraka is 1 of about 20 contributing editors listed on the masthead. A contributing editorship is sometimes an honorary title that does not indicate substantive involvement in an editorial process.

Baraka, who died in 2014, was a black nationalist poet, playwright, and teacher who wrote on cultural and political topics. His style is intentionally provocative and confrontational. In his 1965 poem "Black Art," he wrote that ideal poems are "Assassin poems … that wrestle cops into alleys / And take their weapons leaving them dead / With tongues pulled out and sent to Ireland." His legacy is controversial among black scholars.

Much of his work is shot through with anti-Semitism. "Black Art" calls for "dagger poems in the slimy bellies / Of the owner-jews."

Although Baraka acknowledged and rebuked the anti-Semitism of his early publications in a 1980 Village Voice piece titled "Confessions of a Former Anti-Semite," Jew-baiting continued to appear in his later works. His most notorious poem accused Israel of having advanced knowledge of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed / Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers / To stay home that day / Why did Sharon stay away? / Who? Who? Who?" Baraka wrote in the 2002 poem "Who Blew Up America?"

In a 2004 NPR interview, Baraka said he did not regret writing the poem. In the same interview, Baraka called then-Newark mayor Cory Booker "backward" and lamented that "merely getting rid of the white folks in Newark" was not sufficient to achieve the goals of black nationalists.

Clarke is facing criticism for other potential misrepresentations to the committee. As a Harvard student, Clarke wrote a letter to the editor promoting the pseudo-scientific "melanin theory" of black racial superiority. Asked about the piece during the April hearing, Clarke said it was satirical and that contemporaneous reporting from the campus newspaper proved as much.

Reporting in the campus paper, the Harvard Crimson, indicates no such thing, however. The Crimson editors called on Clarke to retract her claims in an editorial entitled "Clarke Should Retract Statements." The editorial argues that there's little evidence of irony in the letter and that Clarke's subsequent statements about the piece hardly amount to a disavowal of its contents.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment about Clarke and Baraka.