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Booker Accused of Inventing Oft-Cited Drug Dealer

Booker Accused of Inventing Oft-Cited Drug Dealer

By Scott Conroy - August 29, 2013

The use of melodramatic personal anecdotes about the hard-scrabble community where he resides has long been a facet of Newark Mayor Cory Booker's carefully crafted political persona.

Among the most vivid stories that the New Jersey Senate candidate has drawn on over the years involves the complicated relationship he developed with a drug dealer named "T-Bone," whom the rising star in Democratic politics said he first met shortly after moving to Newark in 1995.

“I walked up to this charismatic black guy my age called T-Bone, who was one of the drug lords,” Booker recalled to the Stanford University alumni magazine in 2000. “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.’”

In the years since, Booker has talked more about T-Bone -- whom he said went from threatening to kill him to weeping on his shoulder -- in countless stump speeches and interviews.

The actual existence of T-Bone, however, is in dispute.

On Thursday, The National Review published a story headlined “Cory Booker’s Imaginary Friend,” which featured on-the-record comments from three men with deep ties to Newark, who say that a drug dealer named T-Bone has never walked the city’s streets.

Asked whether T-Bone is a real person, Booker spokesperson Kevin Griffis declined to answer the question directly, instead encouraging a reporter to conduct an Internet search related to the issue.

“This was a partisan outlet trying to drum up a fake controversy from years ago,” Griffis said of the National Review piece.

Griffis pointed to an Esquire magazine story from 2008, in which the question of the existence of T-Bone was addressed.

Booker was quoted in that piece as maintaining that T-Bone was “1,000 percent real” but also an “archetype” of Newark’s problems. 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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