Every Tuesday, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses his Justice and Development Party (AKP) cohorts. Speaking before a friendly audience, he often lets his guard down and lets the real Erdoğan shine through. Alas, increasingly it’s apparent that the real Erdoğan is not only an anti-Semite—ranting and raving about Jews or some amorphous “interest rate lobby”—but also a racist.
Criticizing Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the center-left and secular Republican Peoples Party (CHP), Erdoğan declared, “Kılıçdaroğlu is striving every bit he can to raise himself from the level of a black person to the level of a white man.” The Turkish word—Zenci—Erdoğan used is often used in a derogatory way.
President Obama has described Erdoğan as one of the few leaders with whom he has developed bonds of trust. On a policy level, Erdoğan has worked to undercut sanctions on Iran and has embraced groups like Hamas and Hezbollah designated by the U.S. government to be terrorists. On a personal level, he has exposed himself as an anti-Semite and now a racist. Perhaps it’s time for Obama to explain just what he sees in the Turkish premier. And perhaps it’s time for the Congressional Turkey Caucus—several members of which are also in the Congressional Black Caucus—to ask Erdoğan just what he meant when he described his chief political opponent in decidedly racist tones.