A Democratic congressman running in a competitive House race once praised Nation of Islam leader and infamous anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan as "impressive" and said he considered joining Farrakhan's organization.
Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.), who has served in Congress since 1993, made the comments during a 2005 interview series with the former leader of the NAACP, the Jewish Journal reported this week.
Bishop said he met Farrakhan after graduating from college, while the two were attending an event at Morehouse College in 1968.
"Of course, I had the opportunity for the first time to be acquainted with a man known as Minister Louis Farrakhan, who was so impressive that night that people stopped in mid-stride," said Bishop during the interview. "I was just so taken by his message and his manner that I rushed out to the mosque the next day to hear him."
The interview could be an obstacle for Bishop in his closely contested race against Republican challenger and Air Force officer Chris West. Bishop's remarks drew criticism from Jewish leaders who noted Farrakhan's history of anti-Semitic and anti-American rhetoric.
Bishop said he considered joining the Nation of Islam, a group led by Farrakhan that mixes black nationalist ideology with some elements of the Muslim religion. The organization also promotes anti-Semitic, anti-white, and anti-gay conspiracy theories. Bishop said his father opposed the idea and encouraged him to "pause" and reconsider it.
"I had so much exposure, so many influences, and of course when I even mentioned the possibility of joining the Nation, my father, he had a real time with that," he said.
Bishop, who was raised Christian, said he didn't end up joining the group and went on to learn about different religions, including Judaism.
The Jewish Journal noted that Bishop declined to denounce Farrakhan when asked by the Daily Caller in 2018.
Bishop told the Jewish Journal that he "denounce[s] anti-Semitism just as I denounce all forms of racism." The congressman added that he has "been a strong supporter of the State of Israel" and has "the support of the Georgia Jewish community."
Farrakhan has been dubbed the "most popular anti-Semite in America" by the Anti-Defamation League. Farrakhan preaches that "Satanic Jews" have "infected the whole world with poison and deceit."
"To my Jewish friends, I shouldn't use the word ‘friends' so lightly, you have been a great and master deceiver, but God is going to pull the covers all off of you," said Farrakhan in one 2017 speech.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Jewish Journal that Bishop's praise for Farrakhan seems consistent with some of the congressman's policy positions.
Bishop, who supported the Iran nuclear deal, appears to have "no concerns about a regime that crushes human rights, religious freedoms of its own citizens, executes gays, threatens nuclear Holocaust against [the] Jewish state, and continues to support and deploy terrorist assets from Iraq to South America," Cooper said. "No surprise then he would have no problem with Farrakhan's anti-Semitism and anti-American rhetoric."