• 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

By  Hayley Peterson

PUBLISHED: 12:43 EST, 29  August 2013 |  UPDATED: 16:49 EST, 29 August 2013

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, National Review reports.

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 

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. 

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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