"Journalist" helped suppress 2005 photo of Obama with Farrakhan for fear it would hurt his political career

If you’re suppressing truthful information, you don’t get to be called a “journalist” without scare quotes.

TPM has a copy of the photo. This reaction is, of course, correct:


The two met at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting in 2005, when Obama was a senator. And yes, since you’re thinking it right now, it is disgusting that the CBC would host one of America’s foremost anti-semitic cranks because he has a following within black America. The CBC does what it does, though, and Sen. Obama had the right to do what he wanted to do by skipping the meeting if Farrakhan’s presence bothered him. Evidently it didn’t. More from TPM:

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

Asked whether he thought the photo’s release would have affected Obama’s presidential campaign, Muhammad said, “I insist. It absolutely would have made a difference.”

Reached by TPM on Thursday, Muhammad said a “staff member” for the CBC contacted him “sort of in a panic” after he took the photo at a caucus meeting in 2005. TPM has published the photo above with Muhammad’s permission.

“I sort of understood what was going on,” Muhammad told TPM. “I promised and made arrangements to give the picture to Leonard Farrakhan,” the minister’s son-in-law and chief of staff.

Muhammad kept a copy of the photo but said he didn’t dare release it or mention it publicly, partly because he was “afraid of them” — “them” in this case apparently meaning Farrakhan’s cronies at the Nation of Islam, although why the NOI would be displeased at having a photo published of the leader of their church with the president is unclear. Charitably, you might assume that they were being protective of Obama, not Farrakhan. They knew that the photo would be a political liability for the first black president so they made it disappear. For awhile.

Team Obama’s always had trouble suppressing the *fact* of his encounters with radicals (so far as we know!) but they’ve been more successful suppressing hard evidence of them. In some cases, like Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, there’s no denying his chumminess with them. There are too many witnesses. Obama attended Wright’s church for years, of course. With more fleeting encounters, though, proof has been hard to come by. The story of the missing Farrakhan photo is reminiscent of the infamous missing video of Obama praising former Arafat mouthpiece Rashid Khalidi at an event in 2003. The LA Times had the tape and presumably still does, and has been offered good money for it in the past. No sale. Once again, truthful information is being suppressed because it might damage a favored politician. “Journalism.”

The Khalidi, Wright, and Farrakhan incidents will be used by some to claim that Obama himself is a radical, or at least has a soft spot for radicals. (He doesn’t have any deep moral objection to those three, obviously.) I think there’s a more likely explanation, which is just as offensive and depressing: Obama was happy to “pal around” with terrorists and other cranks if it benefited him politically to do so. It’s all about the O, then, now, and forever, morals be damned. Ayers was tapped into Chicago’s liberal community and could help an ambitious young Democrat make a lot of important friends quickly. Wright and Farrakhan, through their radicalism, enjoyed a degree of “black authenticity” that the younger Obama lacked and needed politically — he got crushed by former Black Panther Bobby Rush in a House primary in 2000, remember — and he concluded that friendly relations with them were one way to purchase it. That’s why he didn’t skip the CBC meeting in 2005. He knew he was going to run for president eventually and he also knew that snubbing an influential black leader would imperil the degree of support he’d need from black voters when he did. So he smiled for the birdie when a photographer stepped up next to him and Farrakhan. Better to have the photo leak and be forced to explain it to white voters than to make an enemy of Farrakhan and have to explain that to black voters later.

Jazz Shaw Aug 17, 2022 11:01 AM ET