WASHINGTON — American singer-songwriter Erykah Badu expressed empathy for Adolf Hitler on Wednesday, going so far as to say she “saw something good” in him.
“I’m a humanist,” she told Vulture, a pop culture website run by New York magazine. “I see good in everybody. I saw something good in Hitler.”
“Come again?” replied the bewildered journalist, David Marchese.
“Yeah, I did. Hitler was a wonderful painter.”
“No, he wasn’t. And even if he was, what would his skill as a painter have to do with any ‘good’ in him?”
“Okay, he was a terrible painter,” she conceded. “Poor thing. He had a terrible childhood. That means that when I’m looking at my daughter, Mars, I could imagine her being in someone else’s home and being treated so poorly, and what that could spawn. I see things like that. I guess it’s just the Pisces in me.”
That exchange was spurred by Marchese pressing Badu, 46, on comments she made while visiting Israel in 2008, in which she defended Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, who himself is noted for praising Hitler in a 1984 speech.
The Anti-Defamation League has called Farrakhan an anti-Semite. It has a page on its website tallying his bigoted remarks, including saying the US Federal Reserve is run by the Jews and that it was “apparent that there were many Israelis and Zionist Jews in key roles in the 9/11 attack.”
The ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt took to Twitter on Wednesday to denounce Badu’s Hitler remarks.
Second, I also like to think that there is good in all people, but Hitler is pure evil. I don't care if he painted or was a vegetarian; Hitler is responsible for the deaths of 6 million Jews & a war that claimed the lives of tens of millions. Shame on you for downplaying that.
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) January 24, 2018
“I also like to think that there is good in all people, but Hitler is pure evil,” he said. “I don’t care if he painted or was a vegetarian; Hitler is responsible for the deaths of 6 million Jews & a war that claimed the lives of tens of millions. Shame on you for downplaying that.”
Greenblatt then urged the R&B legend to apologize for her remarks, emphasizing her widespread cultural influence.
“You are a role model to many, and as such, you should immediately apologize for these irresponsible and misguided comments,” he said.
At one point in the interview, she was asked to clarify her 2008 defense of Farrakhan, which came about when the Grammy-award winning musician was in the region for a concert in Tel Aviv. She explained:
“I’d gone to Palestine and journalists asked me, ‘Do you believe in Louis Farrakhan? Do you follow him?’ Sure I do. I’ll follow anyone who has positive aspects,” she said. “He single-handedly changed half of the Nation of Islam to clean eating, clean living, caring for their families. He has flaws — like any man — but I’m not responsible for that. I said I’ve appreciated what he’s done for a lot of black Americans.”
“I mean, I’m not Muslim, I’m not Christian, I’m not anything; I’m an observer who can see good things and bad things,” she went on. “If you say something good about someone, people think it means that you’ve chosen a side. But I don’t choose sides. I see all sides simultaneously.”
Badu’s remarks — she also defended Bill Cosby — immediately drew shock and fury throughout social media.
“This is a fascinating, infuriating interview where Erykah Badu talks about seeing the humanity in Bill Cosby and…Hitler,” Ashley Weatherford, a senior editor at New York magazine, tweeted. “My jaw is currently on the floor.”