Linda Sarsour, a prominent progressive activist and co-chair of the Women’s March, issued an apology Tuesday for her failure to explicitly condemn anti-Semitism after the founder of the liberal protest movement called on her to step down for indulging bigotry.
“We should have been faster and clearer in helping people understand our values and our commitment to fighting anti-Semitism. We regret that,” the statement read. “Every member of our movement matters to us — including our incredible Jewish and LGBTQ members. We are deeply sorry for the harm we have caused, but we see you, we love you, and we are fighting with you.”
The statement comes as Sarsour and her fellow Women’s March co-chair Tamikah Mallory are faced with growing outrage over their ties to — and refusal to condemn — Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a notorious anti-Semite and homophobe.
Teresa Shook, a Hawaii-based attorney who started the first Women’s March Facebook page in 2016, called on the group’s leadership, including Sarsour and Mallory, to step down in a Monday Facebook post.
“As Founder of the Women’s March, my original vision and intent was to show the capacity of human beings to stand in solidarity and love against the hateful rhetoric that had become a part of the political landscape in the U.S. and around the world,” Shook wrote.
Mallory faced backlash in February when she posted a celebratory Instagram video from Farrakhan’s Saviour’s Day address in Chicago, in which he railed against the “satanic Jew.” The Women’s March subsequently issued a statement making clear that Farrakhan’s beliefs are not “aligned with the Women’s March Unity Principles,” but Mallory refused to condemn Farrakhan personally.
Sarsour has also come under fire both for her public praise of Farrakhan and for anti-Semitic comments of her own. “If what you’re reading all day long, morning and night, in the Jewish media is that Linda Sarsour and Minister Farrakhan are the existential threats to the Jewish community, something really bad is gonna happen and we gonna miss the mark on it,” she said last November at an event dedicated to combating anti-Semitism.
The controversy intensified again this week when actress Alyssa Milano joined Shook in condemning the group’s ties to anti-Semitism and said she would not speak at next year’s march in Washington, D.C., as previously planned.
Sarsour’s apology comes after she issued a more defiant statement on Monday, in which she distanced herself from Farrakhan but cast criticism of her organization as a distraction designed to derail their mission. She returned to that message in a Tuesday night Facebook post written after she issued her apology.
“Don’t let people who have not contributed nor put their bodies on the line define this moment,” she wrote, presumably referencing the recent wave of criticism from Shook, Milano and others. “[T]hose who understand that we are all vulnerable under a fascist Administration will define this moment. We will win together. We will write history together. It will be a messy history full of trials and tribulations, hurt and pain but with the consistent understanding that people are counting on us.”