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August 09, 2020

Mayor Kenney joins calls for Philly NAACP president to resign after posting anti-Semitic meme

Other leaders across Pennsylvania have already pushed for Rodney Muhammad to step down

Controversies Anti-Semitism
Jim Kenney rodney muhammad Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney called Muhammad’s messages “offensive and hurtful” and said that he was “deeply disappointed” by Muhammad for not apologizing to the community.

Mayor Jim Kenney has officially joined the calls for Philadelphia NAACP President Rodney Muhammad to step down amid a controversy that started when the latter posted an anti-Semitic meme on Facebook in July.

“In my opinion, it’s time for the board to move forward by installing new leadership to an organization that has long championed religious and racial tolerance for all Philadelphians,” Kenney said to the Philadelphia Tribune.

Kenney also called Muhammad’s messages “offensive and hurtful” and said that he was “deeply disappointed” by Muhammad for not apologizing to the community.

“I am confident that the Board of Directors will act appropriately, in light of the posts themselves and Minister Muhammad’s refusal to date to acknowledge the pain and division that those messages have caused,” Kenney said.

Kenney, who employed Muhammad as a paid consultant for his re-election campaign, previously called for an apology but stopped short of demanding a resignation.

"Our city and nation need healing and unity now, not the sort of division and hatred that this post creates," Kenney said. "I call on Minister Muhammad to apologize to our Jewish community and to all those who fight every day for religious and racial tolerance. I know Minister Muhammad to be a bridge builder, and I hope he is up to the task of rebuilding the bridges that his unfortunate post has now damaged."

Muhammad, who has led the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP since 2014, posted a cartoon depicting a caricature of a Jewish man holding down a mass of people, with a shiny ring on one finger. A quote falsely attributed to Voltaire said, "To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize."

Above the cartoon were images of Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, rapper Ice Cube and TV host Nick Cannon, all of whom recently faced backlash for sharing or endorsing anti-Semitic views.

Muhammad, 68, removed the post when confronted by a Billy Penn reporter, pretending at first that he didn't remember sharing it. The civil rights leader, originally from Chicago, previously has stood behind Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakahn when he faced criticism for repeated anti-Semitic comments. 

In a statement issued through the national NAACP, Muhammad acknowledged the quote had previously been used by white supremacists. He did not directly apologize and instead claimed he was attempting to start "a dialogue around criticism and understanding."

There was no indication from Muhammad or the NAACP that he would be leaving his position.

"I stand with all members of the Jewish faith in the fight for social justice, and I intend to use this opportunity for thoughtful conversations with both the Black and Jewish communities," Muhammad said.

After not initially addressing calls for Muhammad's resignation, the national NAACP said to the Tribune that “there are open lines of communication with the national staff and [Philadelphia] executive committee, and conversations are ongoing.”

The Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP has strongly condemned Muhammad's comments, but said it is up to the national organization to take action against him.

The Jewish Federation has called on the national NAACP to immediately remove Muhammad from his position.

Other Pennsylvania leaders, such as Gov. Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, State Rep. Joanna McClinton, and State Sens. Anthony Williams and Steve Santarsiero, have all called for Muhammad to resign.

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