ST. PETERSBURG -- City council has appointed John Muhammad Malone, also known as Brother John Muhammad, to serve out the unexpired term of Lisa Wheeler-Bowman.
Malone was one of seven candidates who submitted their applications (one withdrew before interviews began). He and longtime former councilman Wengay Newton were selected as finalists. Muhammad pointed to his involvement in numerous community groups and issues.
Council members dialed in on controversy over Malone's ties to the Nation of Islam, and antisemitic remarks from its longtime leader, Louis Farrakhan. Council member Lisset Hanewicz asked Malone to weigh in. He said opposition to his appointment over Farrakhan was "not diverse." Malone said he had been involved with groups and leaders from different backgrounds citywide.
The Holocaust Museum issued a statement the day before the vote, saying his continued support for Farrakhan should "disqualify him from public office." It says the city should reaffirm its commitment to diversity by "keeping antisemitism away from government." Malone also said he had offereed to reach out to the Florida Holocaust Museum for dialogue, but was turned down.
Council member Deborah Figgs-Sanders told Malone he was "bearing the brunt of a lot of hate" and told him that while they had not always gotten along, the bridges that (Malone) has built "do not display a heart of hate."
The final vote was four for Malone and three for Newton. Malone will be sworn in October 20th.