Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan brought some added controversy to the funeral of musical great Aretha Franklin. Farrakhan had a place of prominence on the stage with other luminaries, but he didn’t speak, and mostly just sat there smiling.
Deadline wrote that while Franklin wanted Farrakhan at the event, many others didn’t feel that way due to his strong anti-Semitic rhetoric. The 85-year-old New York-born Farrakhan first met Franklin back in the early seventies, when she offered her support to his mosque. Farrakhan said of the soul singer,
“In 1972, when I was minister in New York City, Temple No 7, the police attacked our mosque. Within a few hours, Aretha Franklin came to the mosque, to my office, and said that she saw the news and came as quickly as she could to stand with us and offer us her support.”
He explained that even though Franklin was a Christian, she stood with the Muslims, and so he referred to her as “Our Queen And Our Giant In The Black Struggle.”
But Twitter, in particular, lit up to ask why Minister Farrakhan needed to be on the stage with the likes of Jesse Jackson and President Bill Clinton, seeing as he has never backed down on his message of hate.
Documentary filmmaker Jeremy Newberger said that Farrakhan’s views on Jews and gays seemed to be the opposite of the message that Aretha Franklin preached.
“I love Aretha Franklin and this big tribute is wonderful to see, but Louis Farrakhan? His views on Jews, gays and immigrants show a complete and total lack of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Someone should call him an Uber the F out of there.”
CNN‘s law enforcement analyst James Gagliano tried to square Franklin’s tireless work for the Civil Rights movement with a close relationship with Louis Farrakhan. Franklin’s fans came from all walks of life, and Farrakhan is not accepting of many of them.
“Dumbfounded at image of an anti-Semite like Louis Farrakhan prominently seated on dais @ Aretha Franklin’s funeral service. Her song ‘RESPECT’ became Civil Rights Era anthem; seems so antithetical to what Farrakhan stands for. I’m sure there’s reasonable explanation for it…”
CNN‘s Kate Bennett also weighed in to say that the presence of Louis Farrakhan ruined for her what could have been a perfect memorial.
“I was enjoying coverage of Aretha Franklin’s funeral until I saw Louis Farrakhan seated prominently and now that’s enough of that.”
Non-celebrities agreed on the whole that taking Farrakhan out of the mix would have improved the event.