Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., worked as a youth and assistant pastor of a church for a decade while it repeatedly hosted a former New York City professor who was ousted over antisemitic and Black supremacist teachings.
From 1991 to 2001, Warnock served as youth pastor for six years and then assistant pastor for four years under Rev. Calvin O. Butts at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City, several years before he went on to lead the same Atlanta church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pastor.
From 1991 to 1998, Butts’ Abyssinian church hosted Leonard Jeffries as a speaker at least three times.
Leonard Jeffries is the uncle of Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who is poised to succeed Nancy Pelosi as the next Democratic leader in the House. The congressman said in 2013 that he remained close with his uncle but disagreed with his theories.
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At the time of his first appearance at the Abyssinian church in 1991, Leonard Jeffries was embroiled in a legal battle to retain his position as the Black studies department chair at City University of New York (CUNY). He was ultimately removed from his position after a years-long dispute over racist and antisemitic remarks, including blaming Jewish people for the transatlantic slave trade and supporting Black supremacist ideals, like the theory that higher melanin levels make Black people inherently superior to White people.
Leonard spoke about the CUNY controversy during an October 1991 speech at Abyssinian Baptist Church after a student reporter with The Harvard Crimson alleged the professor had slammed the outlet as a “Jewish newspaper” during their interview, threatened the reporter’s life and had a bodyguard physically seize the audio recording of the interview, The New York Times reported at the time.
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Leonard reportedly told the church congregation that he sat down with the student reporter with the intention to discuss multicultural education issues, not the antisemitism controversy, and he did not deny the reporter’s accusations.
While Warnock began working at Abyssinian in 1991 after graduating from Morehouse College earlier that same year, it is unclear if he was working at the church at the time of Leonard’s October speech.
Also in 1991, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) released a report on Leonard “and the Antisemitic Branch of the Afrocentrism Movement,” highlighting several of the now-former professor’s comments on White people and Jews.
The AJC report said Leonard “preaches Jew-hatred like a religion” and claimed he organized a 1990 conference for Black teachers that featured Black nationalist and antisemitic rhetoric and reading materials.
In July 1991, three months before his first Abyssinian speech, Leonard claimed the portrayal of Black people in movies was “a conspiracy, planned and plotted and programmed out of Hollywood, where people called Greenberg and Weisberg and Trigliani and what not,” the AJC report said.
The report also noted Leonard’s racially charged rhetoric “teaching that blacks are racially superior to whites” and his references to Black people as “sun people” due to “more melanin in their skin than whites, whom he calls ‘ice people.’”
Jeffries appeared at the Abyssinian church again in February 1992, giving a speech about systemic racism and White-on-Black crime after a White police officer was acquitted in the shooting death of Black teenager Phillip Pannell, Newsday reported at the time.
“Black people are under siege,” Jeffries was quoted as saying.
Abyssinian hosted Jeffries for a third time in July 1998, when he and his wife, Rosalind, performed the libation marking the passing of Black historian John Hendrik Clarke, The New York Beacon reported at the time.
In 2017, the left-leaning group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), dubbed Jeffries an “anti-Semitic” speaker in a report covering antisemitism on college campuses.
“Leonard Jeffries, the former head of the Black Studies Department at the City College of CUNY, and a professor there since 1972, has espoused racist and anti-Semitic views and theories since at least the early 1980s, when his comments – made while he was department head – began to attract public attention,” the ADL wrote.
“In the spring of 1988, a white student wrote an account in the student newspaper of his experiences in Jeffries’ class, Black Studies 101,” the ADL continued. “The student recounted numerous times when Jeffries constructed large parts of his class around anti-white arguments.”
The ADL also noted the 1990 New York Times article that “reported that in an April 1990 class on African heritage, Jeffries said that ‘rich Jews who financed the development of Europe also financed the slave trade,’ and that ‘the Jewish Holocaust is raised as the only Holocaust.’”
Leonard Jeffries’ rhetoric about Jewish people continued after his Harvard appearance as well. In 1994, he was quoted by The New York Times as comparing Jewish White people to “skunks” who “stunk up everything.” Prior to a February 2012 keynote speech in Chicago from notorious antisemitic preacher Louis Farrakhan, Leonard was quoted as saying during a discussion panel, “The evil genius of the Jewish community was to put together their powers to make business their religion and make it part of their culture.”
Butts, who led the Abyssinian church while Warnock worked there, defended Leonard and slammed CUNY in 1992 for removing the professor as chairman, saying “We don’t need an ivory tower academition. We need a scholar-activist like Dr. Jeffries.”
Butts later came under fire in 1995 after his church hosted Cuban dictator Fidel Castro as a speaker and Butts appeared to praise him, prompting chants of “Fidel! Fidel! Fidel!” from the audience.
Butts defended the decision to invite Castro, arguing it was “in our tradition to welcome those who are visionary, who are revolutionary, and who seek the freedom of all of the people around the world.”
Butts also refused to condemn Farrakhan for calling Judaism a “gutter religion” in 1986, causing members of the New York Philharmonic orchestra to boycott the Abyssinian church.
Butts, who died in October of this year at age 73, once described Warnock as “one of the brightest and most intelligent and academically prepared young clergymen in the country.”
After his death, Warnock described Butts as his mentor.
“Calvin Butts taught me so many things,” Warnock said last month. “Calvin Butts taught me how to take my ministry to the streets. The work of the Lord doesn’t stop at the church door. That’s where it starts. His pulpit was the public square.”
Warnock has come under fire for his own praise of Farrakhan, who has called Jews “wicked,” “satanic” and has compared them to “termites.”
During a 2013 speech, Warnock praised Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam as an “important” voice for Black Americans.
“Its voice has been important for the development of Black theology,” Warnock said at the time, referring to an ideology developed by Black preachers during the Civil Rights era to combat White supremacy within Christianity.
“It was the Black Muslims who challenged Black preachers and said, ‘you’re promulgating … the White man’s religion. That’s a slave religion. You’re telling people to focus on heaven, meanwhile, they’re catching hell,'” Warnock said.
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The reverend said the Nation of Islam was necessary to “put a fire” under Black preachers and keep them “honest” about the message coming from their pulpits.
Warnock, who is nearing his runoff election against Republican Herschel Walker in Georgia on Dec. 6, did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
Fox News’ Houston Keene and Bradford Betz contributed to this report.
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