Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker loves telling stories about the people who inspired him to run for office and help others.
However, according to National Review Online, one of his most famous inspirations, a Newark “drug lord” by the name of T-Bone, may be a “composite” of several different people.
Translation: T-Bone may be the product of Booker’s imagination.
This is all rather surprising considering the detail involved in Booker’s T-Bone stories.
“I still remember my first month on the street,” Booker told Stanford’s alumni magazine, referring to his 1995 move to Newark. “I walked up to this charismatic black guy my age called T-Bone, who was one of the drug lords.”
“I just said, ‘Yo, man, wha’s up.’ And he leaped in front of me, looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Who the blank do you think you are? If you ever so much as look at me again, I’m going to put a cap in your a**,’” he added.
Later, during a 2007 address at Yale Law School, the Newark mayor said he “used to sit there and watch [T-Bone] operate this street-level drug trade.”
Booker claims he and T-Bone eventually became friends, the former turning to the latter for help when a warrant was supposedly put out for his arrest:
I found myself in this awkward position of trying to counsel this guy to turn himself in, to actually go to prison, because I knew he would. He looks at me hard and begins to tell me about his life story. And some of what shocked me and silenced me is that he told me the exact same life story, up until the age of 12 or 13, as my father. Exactly the same. Both of them were born in extreme poverty, both of them were born to a single mother who could not take care of them. Both of them were taken in by their grandmothers, but they were both too rambunctious for their grandmothers to handle, and by the age of 10 they were turned out onto the streets.
Booker continued, saying T-Bone “looked at me with this vicious ferocity that he looked at me with when he first threatened my life, and he bit down hard on his lip and he burst into tears and he started crying and sobbing into my dashboard.”
Later, booker told the New School in 2007:
That rift between me and T-Bone was inches, we sat there, but I felt so alienated that there was a gulf as wide as the Grand Canyon between us, and I could not reach out to save this young man, and we drove back to Brick Towers, and I’ve never seen him again since that day.
But despite the (questionable) level of detail in Booker’s stories, sources familiar with the Newark and its mayor tell National Review no such person exists.
Rutgers University history professor Clement Price told NRO he found the T-Bone story “offensive” because it “pandered to a stereotype of inner-city black men.”
Price, a Booker supporter, adds that the supposed “drug lord” “is a southern-inflected name.”
“You would expect to run into something or somebody named T-Bone in Memphis, not Newark,” he sadi.
But there’s more: Price claims Booker actually told him in 2008 that T-Bone was a “composite” of several different people.
The Rutgers professor told NRO he had a “tough conversation” with Booker and told him that he “disapproved of his inventing such a person.”
“If you’re going to create a composite of a man along High Street,” he says he asked Booker, according to NRO, “why don’t you make it W. E. B. DuBois?”
Price said Booker didn’t argue with the suggestion: “There was no pushback. He agreed that was a mistake.”
Since that 2008 conversation, National Review notes, Booker has been suspiciously reluctant to mention T-Bone in public speeches.
And then there’s Walter C. Farrell, a professor of social work at the University of North Carolina. Farrell tells NRO that despite having strong ties with Newark, he has not been able to find one person who has heard of T-Bone.
“I’ve been up and down the streets and nobody’s ever heard of this T-Bone,” Farrell said. “You know a lot of politicians do that.”
“Upper-middle-class white people love to hear these stories, you know,” the professor explained, “somebody who cares. So Cory Booker gave it to them and is still giving it to them.”
The Newark mayor, for his part, hasn’t actually come out and denied the existence of T-Bone. On the contrary, he has aggressively defended his “drug lord” anecdotes.
“Booker defended the veracity of this story to me, insisting that T-Bone really existed,” claims author Andra Gillespie.
Booker even told “Esquire” in 2008 that T-Bone is “1,000 percent real.”
“Asked whether the mayor stands by his previous statements,” NRO’s Eliana Johnson writes, “Booker campaign spokesman Kevin Griffis told me, ‘I think your questions have been answered a long time ago,’ but declined to specify further.”
But why would Booker feel the need to make up a story about rubbing shoulders with a hard-nosed drug dealer? Simple: ever since he got involved in Newark politics, Booker has had to fend off accusations that he’s a privileged outsider who doesn’t understand what it’s like to come from the “mean streets.”
Perhaps the Newark mayor thought T-Bone would give him the “street cred” necessary to carry an election in the tough New Jersey city.
Click here to read National Review’s entire piece on T-Bone The Newark Drug Czar.
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