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Bloomberg eventually denounced her comments as "despicable." Since then, he and Cunningham, who now works for the campaign, have fended off critics by claiming that Fulani is just one of the party's 90,000 members and by pointing out that George Pataki, Charles Schumer, Eliot Spitzer, and even two of Bloomberg's Democratic mayoral rivals have all made the same devil's pact he is now charged with, accepting the Independence line as a kind of political insurance policy.
But as the All Star Project's ambitious City Hall lobbying efforts show, it's a lot more complicated than that for the mayor.
Bloomberg is only the most recent in a long series of political partners for Newman, who has danced over the past three decades with, among others, the paranoid Lyndon LaRouche, Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi, Black Muslim zealot Louis Farrakhan, and archconservative Pat Buchanan.
In fact, the alleged anti-Semitic remarks that got Fulani in trouble recently stem from the days when she and Newman were still touting the likes of Farrakhan and Qaddafi. (Fulani even visited Libya in 1987 to protest American attacks; a year later, 270 people died when Pan Am 103 exploded over Scotland, a terrorist act now known to have been carried out by Libyan agents.)
But the more enduring strain of criticism aimed at Newman over the years comes from a different, even spookier direction. That rap holds that ever since Newman started out on the Upper West Side in the 1970s with a handful of ardent supporters, he has used a homemade brand of psychotherapy to pull vulnerable people into his orbit and eventual cult-like control.
Newman calls his approach "social therapy," a creed that links personal advancement to activism. Former adherents have long claimed that participants in Newman's therapy are often urged to take part in his other endeavors, ranging from All Stars to the Independence Party. The therapy practice, dissidents say, provides both a steady income stream and a fruitful recruiting base.
Kurlander, a former actress who lives with Newman and other organization members in a Greenwich Village townhouse, denied the cult allegations but acknowledged that the All Stars Project is closely based on Newman's theories.
"We do use the social therapeutic approach," she said. "Dr. Newman, who is the co-founder of All Stars and our artistic director, is the creator of that approach and has trained our staff in it. It is hugely successful, and tens of thousands of young people have benefited from it."
Asked if she'd ever discussed the All Stars approach with Bloomberg, Kurlander said she'd "chatted with him informally" at a recent All Stars fundraiser at Lincoln Center. "He is extremely involved in education and obviously a very philanthropic man," she said. Had she ever hit the mayor up for a contribution? "Not yet," she said.