Hip hop mogul mixes Sharon, Peres
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Hip hop mogul mixes Sharon, Peres

Russell Simmons eulogized Ariel Sharon for his work to 'promote tolerance,' later deleting the tweet amid strong backlash

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons kisses the stones of the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, 2012 (photo credit: Blake Sobczak/AP)
Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons kisses the stones of the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, 2012 (photo credit: Blake Sobczak/AP)

Hip-hop business magnate Russell Simmons retracted a tweet to his three million followers Sunday in which he praised the late former prime minister Ariel Sharon for his work to “promote tolerance,” and later admitted he had confused Sharon with President Shimon Peres.

The co-founder of Def Jam Recordings had met with Peres in Israel in 2012 regarding his interfaith initiative, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which promotes Muslim-Jewish relations and Black-Jewish relations. At that time, Simmons had attended the Israel Presidential Conference at Peres’s invitation.

The original tweet, which was deleted shortly after it was posted, read: “R.I.P. my friend Ariel Sharon great pleasure working with you..special occasions your work to promote tolerance was inspiring.” It sparked criticism from Simmons’s followers.

Simmons responded by attributing his mistake to being “light-headed” from exercising, and wrote that he had confused his “longtime friend” Peres with Sharon who “promoted war, not peace.”

Simmons came under fire after he gave a speech at the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem comparing Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to ADL head Abraham Foxman. Simmons said that just as Farrakhan had alienated Jews, Foxman had alienated African Americans. An angered Foxman called the comments by Simmons “outrageous and ugly.”

Simmons later sent a statement to The Daily Beast. “My statements at the Presidents Conference were not meant to compare Abe Foxman to Minister Farrakhan, as some in the press liked to note,” Simmons wrote.

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