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Update: Rep. Clyburn Defends Appearance with Farrakhan

A spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., has confirmed to The Blaze that the Democratic leader will be attending Friday evening's forum on "The Disappearing Black Community and How We Can Get It Back" in Pittsburgh as we reported earlier this week. The event drew widespread criticism over the inclusion of Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan.

"No one should interfere with minister Louis Farrakhan's right to speak, but his appearance in Pittsburgh this evening at a forum on "The Disappearing Black Community" bestows on him unwarranted credibility," Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in California wrote Friday in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette op-ed. "Rev. Farrakhan does not deserve the respectability of having Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina sit along side him."

After Farrakhan's keynote was announced, fellow forum participant Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, withdrew her RSVP. However, Rep. Clyburn defended his decision to participate in the event, hosted by radio host Bev Smith who blamed Jewish and white Christian organizations for Campbell's decision.

In a statement from spokeswoman Kristie Greco, Clyburn insisted that appearing in a forum with someone who doesn't represent his own point of view is "nothing new."

"He served side-by-side in Congress with arch segregationist and fellow-South Carolinian Strom Thurmond, as well as many other Members whose views and beliefs are starkly different from his own," Greco said. "He will participate on this panel to add to the meaningful discussion about the future of the black community, nothing more and nothing less."

Clyburn has received positive and negative feedback over his planned appearance from people inside and outside his district, Greco added.

"One of the beauties of America is that free speech is protected," Clyburn said earlier this week. "Although I had no idea who all the participants in this program were until yesterday, I look forward to an open and civil discussion at the forum. I will be representing my views and will not hesitate to express and defend my convictions, which are grounded in the Judeo-Christian doctrines I practice."

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