Tinker ad questions Cohen's civil rights record - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Lori Brown

Tinker ad questions Cohen's civil rights record

In a latest controversial twist in the race for Tennessee's 9th Congressional District, a new television campaign ad from Nikki Tinker's camp features images of hooded klansmen and questions Congressman Steve Cohen's record on civil rights.

"I'm surprised that Miss Tinker authorized the ad," said Cohen. "She's run a positive campaign up until now. This is about as low a political ad as I've ever seen."

Approved by Tinker, the ad is narrated by former Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey. He says: "This park was named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, a major slave trader and one of the founders of the KKK. It is the unconscionable to continue to honor such a despicable human being. When I tried to change the name, the only person that voted 'no' was Steve Cohen."

Three years ago, Bailey led a push to rename those Memphis parks named in honor of symbols of the Confederacy.

Nikki Tinker issued this statement Saturday evening: "The nation should know that the man that introduced legislation (for a national apology for slavery) is the same man that only a few years ago cast the lone vote against African Americans who wanted to have the name of a major slave trader and one of the founders of the Klu Klux Klan removed from the city park. The ad merely states the facts."

The vote referred to in the ad was held by the Center City Commission, a citizens' committee.

Cohen says he voted "no" to avoid dividing the city racially, and because the park is also the burial site of the Confederate general and his wife.

Cohen wasn't the only elected official who didn't want to rename the park: the recommendation went to the city council, but they never acted on the renaming proposal.

Mayor Herenton had this to say about the issue in July of 2005: "Digging up and moving graves, renaming city parks is not an appropriate way of dealing with this issue."

About a dozen community leaders and ministers gathered to support Cohen Saturday.

"For this ad to come up at the last minute is an attempt to divide this community racially, and this community is not divided," said councilman Myron Lowry.

Cohen, who is Jewish, said the ad's comparison of him with a Klu Klux Klan member is an example of desperation politics. "The Klan hated Jews, and killed Jews as well as African Americans. It's somewhere between ignorant and unacceptable."

Click here to e-mail Lori Brown.

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