A photojournalist withheld publication of a 2005 photograph of a smiling then-Sen. Barack Obama with a beaming Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semitic, anti-white leader of the Nation of Islam.
The occasion was a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus. The photographer, Askia Muhammad, said that almost immediately after he took the picture a CBC staffer called and said, “We have to have the picture back.” Muhammad later surrendered the disk with the photo to Farrakhan’s chief of staff. “I gave the picture up at the time and basically swore secrecy,” Muhammad said in an interview with the Trice Edney News Wire. “But after the (presidential) nomination was secured and all the way up until the inauguration; then for eight years after he was President, it was kept under cover.”
Why this concern in 2005 when then-Sen. Obama, just elected, had not announced his plan to run for the presidency? The Jerusalem Post writes: “As there was already talk in 2005 of Obama running for president, Muhammad said he and others did not want to harm the Democrat’s chances. It isn’t clear who was employing Muhammad at the time, but he had previously worked for the Nation of Islam publication, The Final Call.”
Would the photo have mattered? Could it have derailed Obama’s chance to become president?
Harvard Law School professor emeritus and lifelong liberal Alan Dershowitz says he would not have campaigned for Obama had he been aware of this photograph. Dershowitz says: “Louis Farrakhan is a virulent anti-Semite. He’s called Judaism a ‘gutter religion.’ He’s anti-American. He is a horrible, horrible human being.
“And if I had known that the President had posed smilingly with (Farrakhan) when he was a senator, I would not have campaigned for Barack Obama. It would have influenced my decision. Look, I threatened to leave the Democratic Party if Keith Ellison were elected as chairman because of his association with Farrakhan. You don’t associate with a bigot. You don’t associate with an anti-Semite.”
The suppression of the Obama-Farrakhan photo is just the latest example of the degree to which Obama benefited from extraordinarily special treatment.
Obama’s longtime association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ would likely have derailed his candidacy had media pounced on this as they did the Trump “Access Hollywood” tape. But for Fox News’ coverage of Wright and the videotapes of his fiery sermons, the other major media would have avoided or downplayed Obama’s 20-year association with a pastor who gave fiery sermons critical of America and who had a longtime friendship with Farrakhan.
Ezra Klein, then with The Washington Post, set up a private internet forum he called JournoList, which served as an online gathering place for several hundred like-minded (aka liberal) reporters. When the Jeremiah Wright scandal broke, several reporters on the “J-List” literally schemed of ways to deflect attention from the scandal. About JournoList, Obama and Wright, the Daily Caller wrote: “In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, ‘Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.'”
Then there’s the Los Angeles Times, which, to this day, has not and will not publish even a transcript of the “Khalidi tapes.” Rashid Khalidi, an Obama friend and a University of Chicago Palestinian-American professor of Middle East studies, had a going-away party to celebrate his new post at Columbia University. Someone gave the Los Angeles Times a videotape of this 2003 event that Obama attended, where he reminisced about their friendship in a tribute to the professor.
Khalidi was an outspoken supporter of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. But what he said and what others said at this farewell party, we will never know. Were attendees bashing Israel? Did Obama bash Israel? The Times says it promised the unnamed source who provided the videotape not to air or reproduce the tape. The paper, whose editorial board endorsed Obama, claims it simply kept its promise to a source. If a tape could have ended Trump’s 2016 campaign, would the LA Times, whose editorial board twice endorsed Obama and considered Trump a danger to the world, have sat on it?
Joan Walsh of the liberal website Salon.com described how fellow journalists were “swooning” during the presidential candidacy over the first-time senator from Illinois. “I was struck,” Walsh said, “when I got to Iowa and New Hampshire in January, by how our media colleagues were just swooning over Barack Obama. That is not too strong a word. They were swooning (emphasis added). I was at a speech. … The biggest names in our business were there. … They could repeat some of his speech lines to one another. It was like a Bruce Springsteen concert where the fans sing along.”
Still, Trump won. Amazing.
Larry Elder is a bestselling author, political commentator, and radio talk show host.