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Politics & Policy

Now It Can Be Seen: The Long-Lost Obama and Farrakhan Picture

Talking Points Memo reports about a journalist’s decision to hide a photo of then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in a 2005 meeting.

A journalist announced last week that he will publish a photograph of then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (D) and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan that he took in 2005 at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting, but did not make public because he believed it would have “made a difference” to Obama’s political future.

The photographer, Askia Muhammad, told the Trice Edney News Wire that he “gave the picture up at the time and basically swore secrecy.”

This is not the greatest scandal in journalistic history, but it is a pretty revealing anecdote. Obama met with Farrakhan. In the photo the two men are smiling; there’s no indication that Obama has or is about to confront Farrakhan about his long history of outrageous statements, anti-Semitism, claim that whites are a “race of devils,” declaration that “Hitler was a very great man,” labeling Judaism a “gutter religion,” and so on.

Louis Farrakhan is a widely detested figure, and he has earned this scorn. Barack Obama is too smart a guy to be oblivious about Farrakhan and what he believes and preaches. Obama didn’t have to go over and pose for a picture. He chose to do so. Obama almost certainly disagrees with Farrakhan’s outrageous and incendiary statements, but that disagreement wasn’t enough to get him to not pose and smile. Not is it plausible to believe that Obama didn’t know who Farrakhan was.

But the photographer knew this photo could be political liability for Obama. So he hid it. The motivation “I need to help Obama stay electable” overrode the motivation, “I have a duty to show the public photographs of things that happened.”

A few years later, in the Democratic primary, Farrakhan endorsed Obama and Hillary Clinton attempted to turn it into an issue. Obama acted like he would never have anything to do with the leader of the Nation of Islam. “I obviously can’t censor him, but it is not support that I sought,” Obama said. “And we’re not doing anything, I assure you, formally or informally with Minister Farrakhan.”

In 2016, Farrakhan said he had a much closer relationship with Obama than anyone knew, and that he met with Obama shortly before he announced his presidential campaign. “We supported him when he was a community organizer,” said Farrakhan. “We backed him with money and with the help of the [Fruit of Islam] to get him elected.”

And of course, more broadly, liberals attacked any conservatives who contended that Obama and Farrakhan had a relationship. The Huffington Post, back in 2008: “A parade of clips of Louis Farrakhan spouting anti-white and anti-Semitic comments is justified by guilt by association with association, because Obama has no connection with Farrakhan but Obama’s former church had a newsletter that praised Farrakhan.”

Now that Obama has completed two terms, does anyone else have some information they would like to share?

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