Is T-Bone a Real Person? Cory Booker Campaign Doubles Down


National Review’s Eliana Johnson has stumbled upon a story that I believe won’t go away soon. Indeed, I think there’s a significant chance that it will undo Cory Booker’s political career.

The story is about “T-Bone,” a Newark drug pusher who threatened Booker but then later became his friend. As Johnson notes:

The mayor has gone into painstaking detail about his experiences with the elusive T-Bone. “I still remember my first month on the street,” he told Stanford’s alumni magazine in 2001 about moving into a crime-ridden area of Newark in 1995. “I walked up to this charismatic black guy my age called T-Bone, who was one of the drug lords,” Booker recounted. “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.’” At Yale Law School in March 2007, he said he “used to sit there and watch [T-Bone] operate this street-level drug trade.”

Booker said he eventually befriended the street thug, who turned to him for help in a moment of desperation. On a day the mayor described to the Yale audience as one of his “most discouraging” in Newark, T-Bone asked him to “go for a ride.” It was then that T-Bone confided there were warrants out for his arrest.

I found myself in this awkward position of trying to counsel this guy to turn himself in, to actually go to prison, because I knew he would. 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.

Then, Booker said, “he looked at me with this vicious ferocity that he looked at me with when he first threatened my life, and he bit down hard on his lip and he burst into tears and he started crying and sobbing into my dashboard.” He told the New School in February 2007, “That rift between me and T-Bone was inches, we sat there, but I felt so alienated that there was a gulf as wide as the Grand Canyon between us, and I could not reach out to save this young man, and we drove back to Brick Towers, and I’ve never seen him again since that day.”

Clement Price, a professor of history at Rutgers University in Newark, who claims to be a mentor to Booker, says the story is not true, and that Booker told him that T-Bone is a composite of several people. Price said that in a 2008 Esquire article. After the article, Booker stopped mentioning T-Bone in his speeches.

The Booker campaign responded to Johnson’s article. Well, sort of. As Johnson notes:

I approached Booker campaign spokesman Kevin Griffis four times seeking comment on the issue. “I think your questions were answered a long time ago,” he told me in one message. In another, he said, “This is an attempt to revive a fake controversy. This question has been asked and answered — years ago.” When asked what the answer was, I received no response. 

Johnson herself seems to think that the scandal will not prove to be major and that Booker will survive it:

Booker is, of course, not the first politician to fabricate or exaggerate experiences. Al Gore claimed to have rushed to the scene of Texas wildfires that broke out in 1998 alongside FEMA director James Lee Witt; he was, in fact, addressing a Democratic-party fundraiser in Texas at the time. Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal repeatedly claimed to have served in Vietnam, though in reality he obtained several deferments and served in the reserves in the U.S.; and Hillary Clinton, of course, “misspoke” during the 2008 presidential primary about landing under sniper fire on a 1996 trip to Bosnia.

Booker’s behavior, however, seems more calculated and pathological than the above flaps by Gore and Hillary Clinton. To me, he seems more like the infamous journalistic fabricators Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair. This seems to be a genuine lie. Yet Booker refuses to come clean about it.

A few weeks ago, I was a fan of Booker. If you had asked me to name my favorite Democratic politicians, I definitely would have put him near the top of the list, perhaps at the very top. But this seems a little creepy. I predict that many moderate New Jersey voters will feel the same way.

There are 23 comments.

  1. Inactive

    I believe T-Bone to be a composite character incorporating elements of Lileks, Robinson and Long, plus a special “wild card” ingredient.

    • #1
    • September 1, 2013 at 1:05 am
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  2. Member

    Big misteak.

    • #2
    • September 1, 2013 at 2:33 am
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  3. Inactive

    You never see T-bone and Lileks/ Robinson/ Long in the same room at the same time.

    • #3
    • September 1, 2013 at 3:21 am
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  4. Thatcher

    As a Lefty friend of mine said when I mentioned this to him. “So what, he is not doing anything that every other politician is doing. Booker lied about a past friendship to make his story sound better and get elected. George W Bush lied about WMD to start a war because of his father and oil. All politicians lie, Bookers are pretty harmless compared to the Republicans.” 

    This will be the spin. It will be considered a non-issue. 

    • #4
    • September 1, 2013 at 3:53 am
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  5. Contributor

    Depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

    • #5
    • September 1, 2013 at 3:54 am
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  6. Inactive

    There is only one T-bone: George Costanza.

    • #6
    • September 1, 2013 at 4:00 am
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  7. Member

    Progressives have no quarrel with the truth. In fact, the truth is sorta ticked that they hardly ever call!

    They’re all about (self-inflating) virtue, and compassion for the downtrodden. You racist conservative elites just don’t get it. Composites are part of the gig.

    • #7
    • September 1, 2013 at 5:49 am
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  8. Member
    Salvatore Padula: There is only one T-bone: George Costanza. · 1 hour ago

    I also think Booker was just looking for a new nickname

    • #8
    • September 1, 2013 at 6:12 am
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  9. Coolidge

    It isinteresting to me that all these fabrications, exaggerations and outright lies are from Democratic politicians. Why is that?

    • #9
    • September 1, 2013 at 6:40 am
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  10. Inactive

    There have been many politicians who have used imaginary friends in campaign speeches, among them Dick Gephardt and Harry Reid. The practice hasn’t proven damaging in the past. I think Booker survives this scrap with only a few scratches, nothing broken.

    • #10
    • September 1, 2013 at 7:09 am
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  11. Inactive

    When democrats can overlook as glaring of items as Chappaquiddick, or sex with minor congressional pages, I think this will pass by without notice.

    • #11
    • September 1, 2013 at 7:55 am
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  12. Contributor
    Brandon Shafer: When democrats can overlook as glaring of items as Chappaquiddick, or sex with minor congressional pages, I think this will pass by without notice. · 8 minutes ago

    You are so right.

    • #12
    • September 1, 2013 at 8:04 am
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  13. Member

    For it to be a major problem for Booker, the MSM would have to hound him, not just some NRO reporter. But they won’t, so it won’t. The story will be dead by next week. 

    • #13
    • September 1, 2013 at 8:56 am
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  14. Inactive

    Who gives a rat’s ass. He will get elected to whatever office he chooses. He is part of the problem we keep perpetuating. Even Mary Jo’s parents didn’t care.

    • #14
    • September 1, 2013 at 9:10 am
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  15. Inactive
    Peter Fumo: It isinteresting to me that all these fabrications, exaggerations and outright lies are from Democratic politicians. Why is that? · 3 hours ago

    I’d be careful making that claim, while I can’t think of an example off the top of my head, I’m sure we’ve had our own somewhere. Although, to republicans’ credit, we don’t tend to put up with it.

    • #15
    • September 1, 2013 at 9:47 am
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  16. Coolidge

    That is why I made the claim. When was the last time a major Republican made up a story out of whole cloth. To give further examples, Bill Clinton claimed to witness many church burning in Arkansas which turned out to be untrue, Torricelli in NJ claimed to witness the McCarthy hearings when if you believe him he was only two, Hillary claimed to be named after the mountain climber when he hadn’t climbed Everett yet, Biden claimed to have eaten recently at some place recently to make a political point when said place went out of business years ago. I am not trying to make a partisan point. Just interesting to me that this phenomenon is more common with Democrats. Just curious why this is.

    • #16
    • September 1, 2013 at 10:32 am
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  17. Inactive

    T-Bone would have taken solace in the policies senator booker will establish, had he lived to see them and had he existed.

    • #17
    • September 1, 2013 at 10:36 am
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  18. Member

    It’s not like he’s claiming to be an American Indian or anything.

    • #18
    • September 1, 2013 at 10:54 am
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  19. Member

    I would like to believe that your predictions are correct, but I’m too cynical about voters in general and democrat voters in particular. Either they don’t know or they don’t care. Cory Booker is golden in the democrat party despite the below average job he’s done in Newark. 

    • #19
    • September 1, 2013 at 12:04 pm
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  20. Contributor

    T-Bone is the nickname of one of my sons. 

    I’ve often pondered the changes the world has come to now that there is a black president and white kid named T-Bone.

    • #20
    • September 1, 2013 at 12:27 pm
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  21. Thatcher

    I heard T-Bone straightened out and married Barack Obama’s composite girlfriend.

    • #21
    • September 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm
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  22. Inactive

    You may be right that this will kill (or contribute to killing) his future political career (president, vp, etc.), but I seriously doubt it will kill his Senate career (though I would love to be wrong on this). Lonegan is simply too controversial and outgunned to be able to beat Booker. Even if those moderates decide they don’t like Booker, many will not see Steve Lonegan as an acceptable alternative.

    • #22
    • September 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm
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