Chuck D Demands Apology For Charges Of Anti-Semitism

Anti-Defamation League leader stands by assertion, says Public Enemy frontman is out of order.

Outspoken Public Enemy leader Chuck D is demanding an apology from the

Anti-Defamation League, which last month accused the pioneering hip-hop group of

anti-Semitism in the song "Swindlers Lust" (RealAudio excerpt).

"I want an apology now," the 38-year-old rapper said Wednesday from Germany, where

he is promoting Public Enemy's latest album, There's a Poison Goin' On, which

contains the offending song.

"For me not to speak out on the one-sided persecution by the music industry, not to use

this platform ... that's bullsh--."

A spare song that was initially released on the Internet in January, "Swindlers Lust"

blasts unnamed music-industry executives for what Chuck D (born Carlton Ridenhour)

sees as 50 years of unfair compensation for black artists.

ADL national director Abraham Foxman criticized the group in a June 17 letter to Al

Teller, head of the Atomic Pop music label, which released the album. He said the song

— whose title plays on that of the Academy Award–winning Steven Spielberg movie

"Schindler's List," about the systematic annihilation of Jews during World War II —

contains anti-Semitic overtones. Those overtones, Foxman added, take a backdoor

approach to blaming Jews for the plight of poor blacks.

Speaking from Jerusalem on Wednesday, Foxman said it was out of order for Public

Enemy to call for the leading Jewish advocacy group to atone.

"I don't think there's anything to apologize for," said Foxman, who was in Israel to meet

with leaders in the administration of newly elected prime minister Ehud Barak.

"Unfortunately [Chuck D] comes with some baggage. ... It's not that we come out of the

blue or that he is a total innocent in this area."

Foxman was referring to a 1989 incident in which peripheral Public Enemy member

Professor Griff (born Richard Griffin) told the Washington Times that he held Jews

responsible for the "majority of the wickedness that goes on across the globe."

Griff was dismissed from the politically charged group shortly after, but returned to the

fold with last year's He Got Game album. He appears briefly on There's a

Poison Goin' On.

"Swindlers Lust" contains lines such as "Mo dollars, mo cents for the Big Six/ Another

million led to bled claiming their innocence." Chuck D has said the "Big Six" refers to the

six major music corporations — Sony, Time Warner, EMI, BMG, Universal and

PolyGram (now known as the Big Five after last year's merger of Universal and

PolyGram) — and Atomic Pop Vice President Liz Morentin explained that the

"million" lyric was a nod to the Million Man March of 1995.

But Foxman alleged the proximity of the numbers "six" and "million" was a veiled

reference to the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, and added that lines such as

"Dem own the banks" referred to a conspiracy theory that Jewish people control the

financial industry. That the track appropriates the title of the celebrated Holocaust book

and film "Schindler's List" adds insult to injury, he said.

Chuck D countered that people comb through Public Enemy's confrontational lyrics

looking for insults.

"There's paranoia for me to speak out on anything," he said. "I think I was clever in

putting my words together. To blame me for that is bullsh--. I'm not responsible for sh--."

The Anti-Defamation League has no further action planned concerning the song.

Foxman said he never received a response from Teller, although Morentin did fax the

group a letter supporting artistic expression and containing the lyrics to "Swindlers Lust."

"If he didn't intend it to be anti-Semitic, fine," Foxman said. "I welcome that. But in light of

where he's coming from, or where he came from before, this is not a time that I should

apologize to him."