‘Comrade Barbara’: California Senate Candidate Defended Notorious Cop Killer

Barbara Lee has a long record of defending communists and murderers

Barbara Lee
(Getty Images)
February 21, 2023

California Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D.) quest to succeed Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.) may be imperiled by her support for the notorious cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Lee, who launched her Senate campaign Thursday, claimed in a 2001 report to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that Abu-Jamal was "framed" in the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner because of his ties to black liberationist groups. The report, which Lee submitted with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, also defended American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier, who is serving a life sentence for murdering two FBI agents in 1975.

Lee’s history of defending cop killers could hurt her chances in a competitive Democratic primary, in which she’ll face Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter. While Abu-Jamal and Peltier have become martyrs for left wing activists, their cases have been lightning rods for political candidates. Most recently, Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) distanced himself from an aide who referred to Abu-Jamal as her "buddy."

Lee’s report, which referred to several convicted cop killers as "political prisoners," is part of a long history of controversial statements from a former leftist activist once known to her allies as "Comrade Barbara." She has praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who is responsible for more than 10,000 Cuban deaths, for leading "a revolution in Cuba that led social improvements for his people." After Castro died in 2016, she said, "We need to stop and pause and mourn his loss."

In 2021, Lee attended a commemoration ceremony for Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton, who was accused of murdering a police officer and a 17-year-old girl. Lee has repeatedly praised Newton, with whom she worked as a community organizer in Oakland in the 1970s.

Earlier in 2021, Lee organized a congressional forum with a number of activists, including ex-Black Panther Ericka Huggins. Huggins had been charged in the brutal torture and murder of a Panther suspected of snitching to police. During the forum, Lee referred to Huggins as "comrade." Huggins had accused Newton of repeatedly raping her in the 1970s.

Lee has also cultivated ties to known Soviet Communist front groups. In the 1980s, Lee served as an executive board member of the U.S. Peace Council, a front group for the Soviet Union’s World Peace Council. In the 1990s, she was a member of the national coordinating committee for the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, an arm of the Communist Party USA.

Lee's office did not return a request for comment.

Lee and her congressional colleagues submitted the report to the U.N. on Sept. 1, 2001. One of those colleagues was former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D., Ga.), who has recently claimed "Zionists" were responsible for 9/11.

The report was coauthored by Ward Churchill, the professor who gained notoriety weeks later for claiming that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were "chickens coming home to roost" for the United States because of its foreign policy.