Jesse L. Jackson yesterday denounced as "reprehensible and morally indefensible" Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's most recent controversial comments on Jews and supporters of Israel, amid swelling criticism of Farrakhan by Democratic and Republican leaders, including Vice President Bush.
"Such statements and thoughts have no place in my own thinking or in this campaign, and I call upon all of my supporters to join me in speaking out in support of my stand," Jackson said in a statement issued by his Democratic presidential campaign advisers here as he was winding up his trip to Cuba and Central America.
"I will not permit Minister Farrakhan's words, wittingly or unwittingly, to divide the Democratic Party. Neither anti-Semitism nor anti-black statements have any place in our party," he said.
Jackson has been under intense criticism from prominent Democrats and Jewish leaders for his failure to repudiate Farrakhan, his one-time political associate, since the remarks in a speech broadcast last Sunday. Jackson's fellow presidential candidates, Walter F. Mondale, the prospective nominee, and Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.), were under similar pressure.
Jackson's campaign manager, Arnold Pinkney, said he and other advisers told Jackson by telephone yesterday that they had concluded that the controversy enveloping him "would not go away" unless such a statement was issued.
Farrakhan, meanwhile, said "a rebuke by my brother" would be "well worth it" if the repudiation permitted Jackson "to go to the Democratic National convention and represent the 85 percent of the black vote that he earned and represent the locked-out of the Democratic Party."
The Muslim minister also told Cable News Network that he had referred to some Jews as practicing a "dirty religion" and had not called Judaism a "gutter religion" as originally reported. ABC News obtained a videotape of Sunday's speech from Farrakhan's organization on which the word sounded more like "dirty" than "gutter."
Farrakhan told the Chicago Tribune that he would give "$10,000 out of my pocket and offer my life" to anyone who could prove he described Judaism as a "gutter religion." He was unavailable for further comment last night.
Mondale, briefed late yesterday on Jackson's statement, told reporters in Atlanta that "it's got to be seen as a hopeful step" but said he wanted to read it fully "before I finally give a verdict."
Earlier, the former vice president had termed Farrakhan's words "obscene" and said, "The only way to advance the cause of justice in America is to condemn bigotry and prejudice wherever it appears."
The Reagan administration weighed in with an even stronger blast. Bush, in remarks prepared before Jackson's disavowal, last night described Farrakhan in a speech at a Securities and Exchange Commission dinner as a "staunch" supporter of Jackson who "has done as much to advance anti-Semitism as any American in memory."
"That a man who has been an advocate of civil rights and human rights can continue to defend and accept the support of a Farrakhan, a man figuratively draped in the Nazi swastika, is an incredible episode in modern American politics," Bush said.
"If Jesse Jackson won't tell Louis Farrakhan, the president of the United States and I will: there is no room in the United States for venomous hate, racism and anti-Semitism."
Jackson's disavowal did not stop the Senate last night from approving, 95 to 0, a Republican-sponsored amendment to an appropriations bill condemning Farrakhan's statements and calling for written repudiations from the Democratic and Republican national chairmen.
Informed of the Senate action, Farrakhan smiled and said, "And there is not one black senator, is there?" He added, "My repudiation of the Senate carries more weight with God than their repudiation of me."
Earlier yesterday, 13 House Democrats, led by Edward F. Feighan of Ohio, sent a letter to Democratic National Committee Chairman Charles T. Manatt asking that Jackson not be allowed to address the party's nominating convention, which begins July 16 in San Francisco, unless he repudiated Farrakhan.
Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.), chairman of the Jackson campaign's issues and political strategies committee, said Jackson had to disavow Farrakhan's latest remarks. "These statements were not subject to misinterpretation," Fauntroy said in an interview yesterday. "This struck at the heart of our Judeo-Christian tradition and of course required a very clear and definite disassociation." Jackson said he made his remarks as a Judeo-Christian.
Democratic Party officials and Mondale strategists feared that without the repudiation, the party's national convention could erupt in a politically damaging, nationally televised clash of blacks and Jews.
Fauntroy said yesterday that "a diversion around black-Jewish relations would have prevented our emerging from the convention with a focus on issues that are of paramount importance to the American people."
Yesterday Jackson said of Farrakhan's latest controversial statements: "I find such statements or comments to be reprehensible and morally indefensible. I disavow such comments and thoughts."
Farrakhan's speech was originally broadcast live over a Chicago radio station and recorded off the radio by a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, which broke the story.
In his speech, Farrakhan contended that American blacks, not Jews, were the "chosen people" referred to in biblical references to Israel. He said that the present nation of Israel was created by Zionists through an agreement with Nazi Germany and without the repentance that he said God had required before He would deliver Jews "among the holy people."
"I'm not anti-Jewish. I am pro-truth," Farrakhan said at one point.
He said "the presence of the state called Israel is an outlaw act" undertaken without "the blessing of Almighty God."
"Now that nation called Israel never has had any peace in 40 years and she will never have any peace," Farrakhan said, "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."