SWC Files to Dismiss Farrakhan’s Defamation Suit Against Them

Alleges group falsely portrayed Farrakhan as an antisemite and inhibited his First Amendment rights
December 15, 2023
Kevork Djansezian / Stringer (Getty Images)

The Simon Wiesenthal Center announced on Thursday that they have filed a motion to dismiss a defamation suit that Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam (NOI) filed against them.

In October, Farrakhan and the NOI filed the lawsuit in New York against the Wiesenthal Center and the center’s Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda Rabbi Abraham Cooper, as well as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. The lawsuit alleges that these Jewish groups have falsely portrayed Farrakhan as an antisemite and have attempted to inhibit his First Amendment right to speak; the suit seeks $4.8 billion in monetary damages.

The motion, according to a press release from the Wiesenthal Center, argues that “it is more important than ever for Jewish organizations and individuals — and hopefully all organizations and individuals — to be able to call out antisemitism in order to counter it, without fear of the legal system being weaponized to silence them. These First Amendment protections are critical, and indeed, foundational to our American democracy.” The motion also contends that the “Plaintiffs’ baseless defamation claims should be dismissed because, as a matter of law, the statements were non-actionable opinions that were made without malice” and that “the statements at issue involve matters of public interest, and Plaintiffs admit Farrakhan is a public figure, Plaintiffs must prove that the allegedly defamatory statements were made with actual malice.”

“We all not only have a constitutional right but a duty to call out every form of antisemitism,” Cooper said in a statement. “Sadly, we live in a time when hate will continue to spread unless we are free to confront it.”

The 76-page lawsuit alleges that the Wiesenthal Center is “an unamerican [sic] organization that has woven itself into the fabric of both the U.S. government, in general, and into local governments within America, in particular, to advance interests that are anti-American.” The lawsuit argues that, according to a New York Times article, Wiesenthal Center Founder Rabbi Marvin Hier successfully interfered in stopping Netflix from showing a documentary on Farrakhan in 2018 after calling the head of Netflix. Hier is quoted as saying in the article that “it would be terrible to give Mr. Farrakhan ‘legitimacy’ on such a national level by streaming this documentary.” This, the lawsuit argues, demonstrates the Wiesenthal Center’s “malice” because “Minister Farrakhan has earned legitimacy in America, and around the world, for almost a half century.”

Additionally, the lawsuit claims that, among other things, the Wiesenthal Center defamed Farrakhan when they referred to him as “the Joseph Goebbels of our time” and “America’s Godfather of Anti-Semitism.”

Regarding the ADL, the lawsuit claims that the ADL has had an axe to grind against Farrakhan ever since the NOI leader provided support for Reverend Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign. Jackson at the time was in hot water with the Jewish community after his reported “Hymietown” remark. The lawsuit alleges that the ADL has repeatedly accused Farrakhan of calling Judaism a “gutter religion” or “dirty religion”; the lawsuit states that this claim is false, as the remarks in question involved Farrakhan saying in 1984: “That nation called Israel never has had any peace in 40 years and she will never have any peace because there can be no peace structured on injustice, thievery, lying, and deceit, and using the name of God to shield your dirty religion under His holy and righteous name.” “The reference to ‘dirty religion’ had absolutely nothing to do with the religion of Judaism, which Minister Farrakhan has stated on countless occasions, but had everything to do with sacrilegious people who use the good name of either Islam, Christianity, or Judaism as a shield for their dirty practices that do not comport with the Divine laws found in the sacred scriptures of the Holy Quran, the New Testament, or the Torah,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit, among other things, also cites an example of the ADL publishing an article in 2013 that “intentionally misrepresented Minister Farrakhan as undertaking ‘a wide-ranging campaign specifically targeting the Jewish community … Farrakhan has alleged that the Jewish people were responsible for the slave trade and that they conspire to control the government, the media and Hollywood, as well as various black individuals and organizations.” It also claims the ADL “knowingly failed to state that Minister Farrakhan was speaking from the books, ‘The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews,’ which cite Jewish scholars and researchers who have written that some Jews were instrumental in the slave trade, and that some Jews do control aspects of media and Hollywood,” the lawsuit stated.

The ADL published a blog post in 2021 stating that “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews” books were authored by the Nation of Islam Research Group (NOIRG), the “historical research department” for the NOI; the NOIRG was disbanded in 2021. The ADL has referred to the books as a “three-volume antisemitic publication,” as the books argue “that slavery in the New World was initiated by Jewish ship owners and merchants” and that “that Jews played a disproportionate role in the transatlantic slave trade.” Additionally, the books falsely allege “that Jews refrained from participating in the abolition movement out of an affinity for the system of slavery,” the ADL post stated. A 2013 Tablet piece quoted some scholars disputing the veracity of “The Secret Relationship The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews” books.

Another example listed in the lawsuit of the ADL allegedly defaming Farrakhan is a 2019 blog post titled “Farrakhan: In His Own Words” in which “the ADL defamed Minister Farrakhan and outright lied when it stated, “He frequently denies the legitimacy of Judaism,” the lawsuit contends. “Defendant ADL, once again, was unable to specifically quote Minister Farrakhan as denying the legitimacy of Judaism because he has never denied the legitimacy of Judaism or any other revealed religion.” The post in question cites a voluminous amount of quotes from Farrakhan that the ADL argues “a selection of hateful and conspiratorial statements made by Farrakhan about Jews, Jewish conspiracies, the Holocaust, Jewish involvement in the slave trade, Israel, dialogue with Jews, whites, the U.S. government and the LGBT community.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told The New York Post that Farrakhan’s lawsuit is baseless. “Louis Farrakhan is an antisemite,” Greenblatt told the outlet. “One need look no further than his own words and statements to come away with the same conclusion.”

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.