We're goin to make an example of Milton Colman!" cried the religious leader on a radio show broadcast from Chicago. "What do [we] intend to do to Mr. Coleman? At this point, no physical harm . . . We're going to punish the traitor and make the traitor beg for forgiveness . . . One day soon we will punish you with death! . . . This is a fitting punishment for such dogs." Coleman's wife, he promised, would "go to hell . . . the same punishment that's due that no-good, filthy traitor." The speaker: Louis Farrakhan, leader of the black Nation of Islam and an important supporter of Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign. His target: Milton Coleman, a veteran black reporter who has covered Jackson for the Washington Post. When asked about the threat, Jackson conceded that it was "wrong." But he declined to condemn his Muslim chum. "I cannot assume responsibility for every state ment made by a friend or supporter of mine," Jackson argued. That Farr Farrakhan speaking in khan's three-week-old speech became an issue just before the New York primary, Jackson says, suggests political "tricks and treachery." Farrakhan is riled at Coleman for reporting, in a Post story in February, that Jackson privately disparaged Jews with the term Hymie and referred to New York City as "Hymietown." To the Muslim leader, the reporter violated black solidarity by writing a story that hurt Jackson. Coleman and other black journalists, he said, are "pure chump operatives]" of white editors. Farrakhan's 10,000-member sect, an offshoot of the less militant and racially integrated American Muslim Mission (membership: 100,000), has provided guards for Jackson. At a Nation of Islam rally a little over a month ago, Farrakhan touched off a brouhaha by threatening Jackson critics, especially Jews. "If you harm this brother," he vowed, with Jackson a few feet away, "I warn you in the name of Allah this will be the last one you harm."
Jackson attempted to cool last week's controversy by blandly suggesting that everybody had a point.
Farrakhan and Coleman, Jackson said, are "two very able professionals caught in a cycle that could be damaging to their careers." He was trying to set up a peace conference for this week. Last Thursday Farrakhan phoned Coleman at the Post. "There have never been threats," the Muslim leader claimed, "and never will be threats to your life." Coleman remains wary. Says he: "I would look forward to meeting [with] Jackson and Reverend Farrakhan as soon as the threat to me and my family is removed. But the way it stands now, that threat remains." Indeed, Washington police have stationed officers at Coleman's home and office for his protection.