The toughest part of PBS’s Bill Moyers interview with Jeremiah Wright was the Louis Farrakhan section (at minute 50 of a 54-minute interview). Rev. Wright wasn’t going to fold on his friend Calypso Louie. Using an old 1970s commercial analogy, he suggested Farrakhan was the “E.F. Hutton” of the black community, that when he speaks, everyone drops everything to listen. Wright suggests he’s a misunderstood hero:
BILL MOYERS: But even some of your admirers say it would be wrong to gloss over what Martin Marty himself called — who loves you — called your “abrasive edges.” For example, you know, Louis Farrakhan lives in the south part of Chicago, doesn’t he? You’ve had a long complicated relationship with him, right?
REVEREND WRIGHT, almost inaudible: Yeah.
MOYERS: And he, you know, he’s expressed racist and anti-Semitic remarks. And, yet, last year-
WRIGHT, smiling: Twenty years ago.
MOYERS: Twenty years ago, but that’s indefensible.
WRIGHT: The Nation of Islam and Mr. Farrakhan have more African-American men off of drugs. More African-American men respecting themselves. More African-American men working for a living. Not gang banging. Not trying to get by. That’s not indefensible in terms of how you make a difference in the prisons? Turning people’s lives around. Giving people hope. Getting people off drugs. That we don’t believe the same things in terms of our specific faiths. He’s Muslim, I’m Christian. We don’t believe the same things he said years ago. But that has nothing to do with what he has done in terms of helping people change their lives for the better. I said direct quote was what? Louis Farrakhan is like E.F. Hutton. When Lewis Farrakhan speaks, black America listens. They may not agree with him, but they’re listening.
For the young who may not remember, the stockbrokers of E. F. Hutton used a series of ads when someone would say “My broker is E. F. Hutton, and E. F. Hutton says … ” and the whole room would stop and bend an ear to hear. Those old ads came to my mind recently when I listened to Clarence Thomas speak.