Cornel West Calls $500K in Tax Liens a ‘Distraction’

Presumptive Green Party nominee Dr. Cornel West dismissed—but did not dispute—The Daily Beast’s discovery of more than $500,000 in outstanding federal tax liens lodged against him in two states, even as he appeared to push back on an open $49,500 child support judgment found in New Jersey.

Speaking on The Breakfast Club radio show Monday morning, the Ivy League academic and best-selling author asserted that he was “broke as the 10 Commandments financially” even before sympathetic host Charlamagne Tha God mentioned the report from last week.

The Daily Beast drew upon county clerk records in New Jersey and California to reveal that the IRS had repeatedly flagged West over back taxes, including for $85,477.02 from 2017, $136,916.26 from 2016, $82,396.14 from 2015, $98,818.25 from 2014, $62,367.69 from 2013, and $77,803.42 from 2005—all of which remain unresolved, according to the public records.

“Any time you shine a flashlight under somebody’s clothes, you’re gonna find all kind of mess, because that’s what it is to be human,” West asserted.

Charlamagne the God sounded empathetic, telling West he loved “the disruption you’re causing,” and questioning why the report had only come out after West began seeking the White House—even though West as president would be responsible for allocating billions of dollars in taxpayer money, and appointing the leadership of the Department of the Treasury. But the Harvard- and Princeton-educated scholar agreed with the host heartily.

“Absolutely, absolutely, and the thing is, I mean, I told you before, I got so much gangsta in me, I was a gangsta before I met Jesus. I ain’t nothing but a reformed sinner with gangsta proclivities,” West said. “Partly it’s because I do like to give to loved ones and others too. But I take responsibility for it too. But it don’t make no difference to me.”

West, born into a solidly middle-class family in Sacramento, further asserted that the story was an attempt to draw attention from the broader problems of poverty and injustice.

“They want to use it as a distraction. Why don’t you keep the focus on the suffering that I’m highlighting?” he said. “This is just a matter of trying to hit you below the belt and keep the distraction.”

While West didn’t appear to dispute that he owes the IRS money, he did take issue with The Daily Beast’s report that, according to New Jersey state court records, a 2003 child support judgment valued at $49,500 remains open.

“What upsets is when they’re lying about my kids—see, that’s what I can’t stand. Lie about my kids—see, I take care of my kids. I give them everything I got,” West said.

The Daily Beast reached out repeatedly to West, his campaign manager Jill Stein, and to his campaign press inbox before publishing the story. In response to questions before publication, West said, “My brother I have asked my accountant to respond to these charges some of which are not true,” but The Daily Beast received no correspondence from the accountant, and neither the professor nor his staff answered subsequent requests for documentation that would contradict the public record.

In the wide-ranging discussion on The Breakfast Club on Monday, West also defended another political leader who ran into trouble with the feds in Los Angeles: disgraced City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas. Ridley-Thomas was convicted earlier this year of steering public dollars to the University of Southern California in exchange for a full scholarship and a professorship for his son.

“My dear brother Mark Ridley-Thomas in L.A., the most powerful Black politician, who has been convicted for nothing—for nothing—under Biden’s Justice Department,” West said.

Above all, West insisted he is running for president for “leverage” to uplift Black Americans and their concerns, favorably citing his friend and co-author Tavis Smiley, an alleged sex pest.

“When I have leverage I don’t look at the Black community the way my brother Tavis Smiley says so many other politicians do—as some political calculation,” he said. “No, not at all. These are the people who love me into my sanity, into my dignity.”

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