(JTA) – The Women’s March said its leaders “reject anti-Semitism in all its forms,” and that it stands with leaders Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, who have been accused of aligning themselves with Louis Farrakhan.
The statement posted Friday on social media comes after actress and activist Alyssa Milano said she would not speak at the next Women’s March if it is organized by Sarsour and Mallory, who have not been willing to condemn Farrakhan. The Nation of Islam leader has made anti-Semitic and bigoted statements for decades, most recently comparing Jews to termites and tweeting in March that “Jews have control over” the FBI.
Jewish actress Debra Messing joined Milano in criticizing the Women’s March leaders.
“We recognize the danger of hate rhetoric by public figures. We want to say emphatically that we do not support or endorse statements made by Minister Louis Farrakhan about women, Jewish and LGBTQ communities,” the Women’s March statement said.
In her comments about the group, Milano said she was looking specifically for a condemnation of Farrakhan by Mallory and Sarsour.
Mallory is co-president of the Women’s March and Sarsour serves on its board. Mallory has praised Farrakhan and attended his events, including a recent one in which he asserted that Jews control the media, Hollywood and Mexico.
In its statement, the march accused those on the right of trying to drive a wedge between various groups of women.
“It’s important to remember that many on the right are thrilled to use any tool they can find to divide and undermine our movement – one that inspired the #WomensWave we saw this week in the midterm elections,” the statement said.
The statement defended Sarsour and Mallory.
“Our women of colour leaders at the Women’s March have risked their safety to build a bold direct action strategy that addresses the real threat against our communities and country – the threat of white nationalism, which is fueled by anti-Black racism and anti-Semitism,” it said.
“We all know the real cause of violence and oppression of our communities. This is well-documented and inspired by vile rhetoric coming from the Trump administration and from members of the Republican Party,” the statement concluded.
The Women’s March is planning another march in Washington, D.C., for Jan. 19.
Milano criticized Mallory and Sarsour in an article earlier this month in the Advocate for not distancing themselves from Farrakhan, who also has repeatedly made homophobic and transphobic comments.
“Any time that there is any bigotry or anti-Semitism in that respect, it needs to be called out and addressed,” she said. “I’m disappointed in the leadership of the Women’s March that they haven’t done it adequately.”
Earlier this year, after Mallory was criticized for not speaking out after she attended the event during which Farrakhan said “The powerful Jews are my enemy,” Sarsour defended Mallory.
“I will not sit back while a strong, bold, unapologetic, committed Black woman who risks her life every day to speak truth to power and organize and mobilize movements is questioned, berated and abused,” Sarsour wrote on Facebook. “I stand with Tamika Mallory every day, with every fiber of my being because she has so much of what we need in the movement right now to win.”