- Booker has used tales about the tough-talking T-Bone to counter critics’ claims that he’s out of touch with the plight of the poor in New Jersey
- Rutgers University history professor Clement Price, who calls himself a friend and mentor to Booker, says Booker admitted to him that he invented T-Bone
- When a number of media outlets began questioning the character’s authenticity several years ago, Booker assured that T-Bone was ‘1,000 percent real’ but eventually stopped mentioning him in stump speeches
- Booker has claimed that T-Bone once threatened to kill him
PUBLISHED: 12:43 EST, 29 August 2013 | UPDATED: 16:49 EST, 29 August 2013
Booker has used tales about the tough-talking T-Bone – whom he claims once threatened his life – to counter critics’ claims that he’s out of touch with the plight of the poor in New Jersey.
‘I’ve been up and down the streets [of Newark] and nobody’s ever heard of this T-Bone,’ Walter Farrell, a professor of social work at the University of North Carolina, told National Review’s Eliana Johnson.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker has been peppering his speeches for many years with stories about a fictional drug dealer named ‘T-Bone’ to boost his public appeal
Booker, who’s campaigning for a seat in the U.S. Senate, hasn’t publicly admitted that T-Bone is a fictional character. When a number of media outlets began questioning the character’s authenticity several years ago, Booker assured that T-Bone was ‘1,000 percent real’ but eventually stopped mentioning him in stump speeches.
Rutgers University history professor Clement Price, who calls himself a friend and mentor to Booker, says the mayor stopped talking about T-Bone after a conversation they had in 2008.
Price told National Review that he confronted Booker about the storied drug dealer and that Booker admitted T-Bonewas a ‘composite’ of people he had met while living in Newark.
‘There was no pushback. He agreed that was a mistake,’ the professor said.
Prior to Booker’s unofficial moratorium on T-Bone stories, the drug dealer was fixture in his stump speeches. The stories painted the picture of a troubled black man who grew up on the streets of Newark and whom Booker had been compelled to befriend.
‘I still remember my first month on the street,’ he told Stanford’s alumni magazinein 2001 about the few weeks that he spent living in a housing project to draw attention to the plight of the people there.
‘I walked up to this charismatic black guy my age called T-Bone, who was one of the drug lords,’ Booker recalled. ‘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 ass.”‘
Booker, left, speaks with Sean Cleary, 24, of Hillsdale, N.J. on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 at the Hoboken PATH Station in Hoboken, N.J.
Six years later, he told a group at Yale Law School about watching T-Bone ‘operate this street-level drug trade.’
He said T-Bone once asked him to go for a ride with him and during the drive, he found himself ‘trying to counsel this guy to turn himself in.’
‘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.’
In telling his story, T-Bone grew emotional and burst into tears ‘sobbing into [Booker’s] dashboard,’ the mayor explained.
For now, T-Bone remains a bit of a mystery. Booker spokesman Kevin Griffis cryptically told National Review when asked about the issue: ‘I think your questions have been answered a long time ago.’
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