MONROE, La. (KNOE) - When the mayor of Monroe honored the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam by giving him a Key to the City, it raised a lot of eyebrows. Among the concerned Louisianians is one of our lawmakers in Washington, D.C.: Republican Senator John Kennedy.
Over the last few weeks, we've heard from a lot of people who have strong feelings on the matter. Afterall, the Nation of Islam, an American group with a history spanning decades, has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The NOI disputes that designation.
KNOE talked exclusively with Senator Kennedy, who reached out to us on Monday saying he felt he had to speak up after heated verbal clashes between admirers and castigators.
Many were pleased with Farrakhan's visit to Monroe in December and the honorific Mayo bestowed upon him despite the event being relatively unpublicized by the city. Others, however, condemned the move as divisive and harmful and say it was a move that, at the very least, is an example of the mayor's tone-deafness regarding racial problems in Monroe.
Kennedy's take? He said Mayo's action doesn't sit well with him.
Sen. Kennedy told us that he's known Mayor Mayo for a long time and considers Mayo a friend. Kennedy also says he has a lot of respect for the mayor and the things he's done for the city of Monroe. But still...
"I think he has made a mistake in giving a key to the city to Mr. Farrakhan," Kennedy said. "I think Mr. Farrakhan is a racist, pure and simple, and I'm not gonna pretty it up."
But was giving Farrakhan accolades in a public setting something for which Mayo should apologize, as some have suggested? We asked Sen. Kennedy his thoughts.
"I'm not asking him to apologize," Kennedy told us. "I'm just asking him to rethink his decision. Look, none of us are perfect and just because you do something you shouldn't do doesn't necessarily make you bad. It makes you human."
Kennedy said that Mayor Mayo, like anyone else, will make mistakes, "Jamie, none of us are perfect. My opinion is you've made a mistake in giving the key to Mr. Farrakhan. He's not worthy of the people and the taxpayers of Monroe's respect and I wish you hadn't done it and I hope you'll consider disavowing it."
Kennedy also said Farrakhan is a racist and that he's not deserving of the Key to the City of Monroe or any city. And while Mayo has brushed the matter off as a non-issue, he's also refused to directly address widespread criticism of Farrakhan's exaltation.
KNOE was able to at least discover what Mayo intended to say informed his controversial decision. While preparing for a live interview with another local media outlet, a list of scripted questions and answers was created and, in it, was a response that Mayo left unsaid during the live interview. The script said he gave Farrakhan a Key to the City because Farrakhan is a nationally known leader of a religious organization and it said that members of the local Nation of Islam group do positive things for our community.