Dave McKinney, Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 24, 2006
SPRINGFIELD — One of Gov. Blagojevich’s appointees to a state panel combatting discrimination and hate crimes came under fire from Jewish groups and a leading Jewish lawmaker Thursday for her close ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
The Blagojevich administration faced questions about why it appointed Claudette Marie Johnson in 2005 to the governor’s Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes when she is minister of protocol for Farrakhan’s group.
“When we got word she was placed on the commission as a representative of the Nation of Islam, we were clearly concerned,” said Lonnie Nasatir, regional director of the greater Chicago region of the Anti-Defamation League and a member of the commission. “This is a body aimed at eradicating hate. In Mr. Farrakhan’s words over the years, he’s actually espoused hate.”
Members invited to hear leader
Johnson’s spot on the board and her ties to Farrakhan became issues after she extended an invitation to other commission members to attend this Sunday’s keynote speech by Farrakhan at the Nation of Islam’s Saviour’s Day conference in Chicago.
Last year, according to a text of Farrakhan’s Saviour’s Day speech posted on the ADL Web site, the Nation of Islam leader said, “Jewish people don’t have no hands that are free of the blood of us. They owned slave ships, they bought and sold us. They raped and robbed us.”
State Rep. Sidney Mathias (R-Buffalo Grove), who is Jewish, said Blagojevich should dump Johnson from the anti-discrimination panel because of her status as a senior adviser to Farrakhan.
“It’s not the message the governor of our state should be sending to our citizens,” Mathias said of her 2005 appointment.
Won’t be taken off commission
Blagojevich spokeswoman Cheryle Jackson said the governor had no plans to remove Johnson from the unpaid position and said the administration was aware of her ties to Farrakhan when she was chosen.