National Review’s Eliana Johnson wrotea detailed account that alleged a key character in one of Cory Booker’s frequent campaign-trail stories — a drug dealer named T-Bone who once threatened Booker’s life but then became his friend — is imaginary.
Booker’s campaign responded by going hard after the conservative-leaning publication, and it continued to insist that “T-Bone” is indeed a real person.
Johnson’s key source is Rutgers University history professor Clement Price, a Booker supporter who confided to the publication that Booker told him that T-Bone was a “composite” of several people he been around growing up in Newark.
The Booker campaign says that “T-Bone” is a real person, and it accused National Review of trying to dredge up a 5-year-old story to damage Booker’s candidacy for U.S. Senate in New Jersey.
“This is a national, partisan, right-wing publication that’s trying to make a fake controversy from 2008 into a fake controversy from today. That’s essentially what it is,” Booker campaign spokesman Kevin Griffis told Business Insider in an interview late Thursday.”It’s just not — it’s old news.”
Griffis pointed to a 2008 piece in Esquire, when Booker last extensively addressed the controversy. In the interview with Esquire, Booker did admit that though “T-Bone” is real, his actual name might differ. That was one of Price’s criticisms to National Review, as he said T-Bone was a Southern-sounding nickname that you’d most likely run into in a place like Memphis, not Newark.
Here’s an excerpt of what that Esquire story detailed, including an interview with Price:
Price doesn’t challenge Booker’s sincerity or authenticity. “He’s genuine,” says Price, “and I’ll tell you why I take that notion to the bank: I’ve spent some time with his dad, and his dad is almost incapable of raising a bullshit artist.”
But Price does have a bone to pick with Booker’s heroics — the apartment in Brick Towers; pitching a tent to conduct a 10-day fast in 1999 to shame Sharpe James into providing more police and better city services to his ward; his 2000 move into a battered motor home that Booker drove to the city’s darker corners for campouts — and with the Heart of Newark Darkness tales Booker tells and retells.
Like Booker’s T-Bone story, about the zombified Brick Towers drug pusher who once threatened to kill Booker but who, many moons later, wound up sitting in Booker’s car, pouring forth his pain, weeping as Booker let him cry it out before going off to prison.
T-Bone’s actual earthly existence has been fodder for public debate, leading Booker to admit that although T-Bone’s corporeal being is “1,000 per cent real,” he’s an “archetype” of an aspect of Newark’s woe whose actual nom de crack may not actually be T-Bone. Which pisses off a historian like Clement Price.
Griffis said that nothing has changed since 2008, and that T-Bone is an “actual human being.”
“That’s the reality. It’s sort of silly,” he said. “There are any number of people, if you lived in that community — if you lived there — that was your daily reality, where those people — people like T-Bone — they were part of the fabric of living in Brick Towers. That person was a fact of life.”
Others have looked into the accuracy of T-Bone, including The Star-Ledger, which first published an extensive dive into the story in 2007. The paper was not able to find T-Bone then, but it did find people who were willing to say that he was a fabrication.
Price, the Rutgers professor, didn’t respond to multiple emails and phone calls requesting comment. When asked if the Booker campaign was saying he was misremembering the conversation between himself and Booker, Griffis said he was. He also repeated the charge that National Review was bringing back an old controversy to stir partisan flames.
“It’s a fake story,” Griffis said. “It’s a partisan journal trying to basically do what a partisan publication does, which is try to create turbulence for Democratic candidates. It’s sort of a time-honored tradition.”
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