WASHINGTON – Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) on Wednesday blasted the Vermont college planning to use a taped commencement speech Sunday from convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
"It's despicable and appalling that a college would want to offer this platform to an unrepentant cop killer," Toomey said on the Dom Giordano radio show on WPHT. "What have we come to when we think that there's a college in America that thinks this is a guy that should be addressing their student body?"
Toomey took on another battle involving Abu-Jamal earlier this year when he led the fight to reject an Obama administration nominee who had worked on the killer's death sentence appeal. The nominee to lead the civil rights department, Debo Adegbile, was blocked by the Senate in March and formally withdrew in September.
Now, Vermont's 700-student Goddard College plans to have Abu-Jamal as one of this year's 20 commencement speakers. In jail for life, Abu-Jamal will speak to 20 graduates via prerecorded remarks.
"This is so warped, it's unbelievable," Toomey said.
Abu-Jamal, who received a bachelor's degree from Goddard in 1996 after completing course work from prison, was convicted of the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Students in the school's fall graduating class chose him as their speaker.
"They chose Mumia because to them, Mumia represents a struggle for freedom of the mind, body, and spirit," said Goddard spokeswoman Samantha Kolber told the Inquirer earlier this week. "Those were values important to this graduating class."
On Giordano's show, Toomey also again addressed the nomination of Adegbile, who last month defended his work on Abu-Jamal's behalf. Toomey reiterated his argument that Adegbile went beyond legal advocacy for the convict, and helped perpetuate Abu-Jamal's celebrity status.
"What this was about was Debo Adegbile participating in the process of lionizing and celebrating and turning Mumia Abu-Jamal into a cause célèbre, and international celebrity, after he murdered a cop in cold blood and admitted it and bragged about it," Toomey said on the radio show. "This is why it's just unbelievable that he could have been nominated and I'm grateful that we were able to persuade enough Democrats to join every Republican in voting against his confirmation."
Adegbile in the early 2000s supervised NAACP attorneys who worked on Abu-Jamal's behalf, contesting prosecutors' push to reinstate a death sentence years after it had first been thrown out and decades after the murder. A judge ultimately agreed with their arguments against the death penalty.
But Toomey pointed to public statements of support for Abu-Jamal by attorneys Adegbile had supervised, saying they helped glorify him.
Adegbile said in September he himself had never made any public statements backing Abu-Jamal, but defended his work as upholding the Constitution and ensuring a legal defense for everyone.