The scheduled appearance tonight of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan on "The Arsenio Hall Show" has sparked protests from religious and gay organizations who fear Farrakhan will be given an uncontested forum to put forth his controversial views on whites, Jews and gays.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center has urged KCOP-TV Channel 13 and other stations around the country not to broadcast the program. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los Angeles-based center, said in a letter to the stations that "we do not believe that an entertainer hosting an entertainment program should provide Louis Farrakhan a comfortable, cozy and legitimizing platform at a time when Farrakhan and his followers are busy spreading their divisive rhetoric."
The Anti-Defamation League, the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation/L.A. also criticized the appearance in a full-page ad in Thursday's Daily Variety.
The ad featured inflammatory quotes from Farrakhan on a variety of topics.
KCOP-TV officials say they will run Hall's show in its regular 11:30 p.m. slot, but with a disclaimer saying that the station does not necessarily endorse the views expressed on the program.
Meanwhile, Hall's producers said they plan to feature pre-taped questions and statements during the show from those who wish to comment on Farrakhan's views. Among those who taped segments this week was Jewish Defense League leader Irv Rubin.
In a statement last week, Hall said, "As always, I feel a strong responsibility to not only use my late-night arena for entertainment, but also as a vehicle to open dialogue as we strive for peace and harmony in America."
The protests largely stem from Farrakhan's recent refusal to denounce an anti-Semitic remark from one of his aides last November.
In a speech given at Kean College in Union, N.J., aide Khalid Abdul Muhammad attacked Jews as "the bloodsuckers of the black nation," praised Hitler as "wickedly great" and characterized the Pope as "a cracker."
Farrakhan earlier this month suspended Muhammad after the Congressional Black Caucus and the U.S. Senate proclaimed their disapproval of the remarks. But Farrakhan added, "I stand by the truths that he spoke." He also accused the Anti-Defamation League and Vice President Al Gore, who both criticized Muhammad's statements, of being anti-black.