Booker Campaign Responds to ‘T-Bone’ Flap

by Eliana Johnson

The Booker campaign has responded to my report yesterday about T-Bone, the drug dealer whom Cory Booker spoke about frequently in stump speeches as recently as 2008, but who sources told National Review Online was Booker’s own invention. Rutgers University professor Clement Price, who describes himself as a mentor and friend to Booker, told me that Booker conceded to him that T-Bone was a “composite” of several people he’d known in Newark and that creating such a character was a mistake. 

I approached Booker campaign spokesman Kevin Griffis four times seeking comment on the issue. “I think your questions were answered a long time ago,” he told me in one message. In another, he said, “This is an attempt to revive a fake controversy. This question has been asked and answered — years ago.” When asked what the answer was, I received no response. 

Suddenly more talkative, Griffis tells Business Insider that T-Bone is an “actual human being” and accuses Price of, well, “misremembering” his conversation with Booker. 

When asked if the Booker campaign was saying he was misremembering the conversation between himself and Booker, Griffis said he was.

Reached by phone on Friday, Price told me he has no desire to get into a back-and-forth with Booker or his campaign. “We obviously have entered into what I would call contested memories,” he said. “I don’t want to get involved in standing my ground with Mayor Booker.”  

As for Griffis, he begins to sound a lot like his boss in his interview with Business Insider, blurring the lines between a real-life T-Bone and a T-Bone created by Booker as a representation of Newark’s plight. ”There are any number of people, if you lived in that community — if you lived there — that was your daily reality, where those people — people like T-Bone — they were part of the fabric of living in Brick Towers. That person was a fact of life,” he said. 

Griffis also pointed Business Insider and Real Clear Politics to this 2008 Esquire profile:

T-Bone’s actual earthly existence has been fodder for public debate, leading Booker to admit that although T-Bone’s corporeal being is “1,000 percent real,” he’s an “archetype” of an aspect of Newark’s woe whose actual nom de crack may not actually be T-Bone. 

If Booker knew and befriended a drug dealer whose name he concealed for any number of reasons, that would have been easy enough to say. That differs from creating a composite character to employ in campaign speeches. 

Today, though, Booker is standing by the story, charging that journalists who question it are merely cynics. He told the Washington Post’s Jason Horowitz the tale is “a hundred percent true.” Hey, it’s not a thousand, but I’ll take it: 

This is a story that I used to tell all the time that was a hundred percent true. And the most cynical reporter for the Ledger writes as if – and then he goes like this – he goes to some guy, not even from my neighborhood – ‘Was there ever a character?’ The guy doesn’t know Brick Towers.

Perhaps Business Insider can coax out of Booker or Griffis why the mayor suddenly excised the anecdote from his speeches after the publication of the Esquire piece.

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