In a story you didn’t hear about this week because of the mainstream press’ utter disinterest, a suppressed photograph from 2005 of a jovial President Barack Obama and Congressional Black Caucus taken with the nefarious anti-Semite and racist demagogue Louis Farrakhan was unearthed by its photographer. The photographer, Askia Muhammad, was sworn to silence by the Congressional Black Caucus; on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Jan. 25, Muhammad noted that “[a] staff member from the black caucus called me and said ‘we have to have the picture back,’ and I was kind of taken aback.’” The caucus seemed to sense the unsavory optics of being joyfully pictured with a man who boldly proclaimed in 2015 that “white people deserve to die.”
Farrakhan is the leader of the Nation of Islam, and is a figure replete with bigoted views and statements. During a Nation of Islam meeting at Madison Square Garden in 1985, Farrakhan said of the Jewish people: “when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!” He’s an avowed racist, with explicit beliefs in the racial superiority of blacks. He is, in other words, beyond the realm of respectability; a deviant whose beliefs are an anathema to the mores of decent society. And our former president smiled glowingly in a photograph with him, and his political allies in the Congressional Black Caucus twisted arms to keep it from the press. Most pathetically, the media have been in no hurry to ask questions of the parties involved.
This is of crucial importance to our national political dialogue, whether or not it is so considered by the Democrats and their allies in the press. In a climate where the slur “racist” is tossed around in a moral haste as a politically expedient epithet, we ought to have a serious discussion about whether racism can only come from one side of the political spectrum.
David Harsani had a nice take on this over at The Federalist on Jan. 31, but it’s worth repeating: could you imagine if a photo of a smiling Donald Trump emerged with a white nationalist like former KKK-leader David Duke? The entire exercise of government in this country would come to a grinding halt. Trump is deemed a racist for using language officially inscribed by the U.S. legislature like “chain migration;” his smiling presence with a disgusting racist like Duke or Richard Spencer would justifiably inflame the body politic. Why, then, doesn’t this photo’s suppression anger the media? If they are so passionately on the side of transparency, and paternalistically claim that democracy dies in darkness, why does a former president’s suppression of a photo of his joyful encounter with a prolific anti-Semite garner hardly any attention?
If a photo of Ronald Reagan were posthumously discovered with former Klan leader Robert Shelton, the press would ceaselessly cover the story because it confirms their preconceived narrative about Reagan as a closet racist. When light is shone upon a long-held conservative narrative – that former President Obama was unduly sympathetic to black identity groups given his exposure to radicals like Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright – the media have gone predictably silent. Partisan points aside, what’s more disgusting is that this meeting even occurred. The optics aren’t the primary issue – rather, the mere occurrence of such a joint session between the CBC, Obama and someone with views as filthy as Louis Farrakhan’s is the most troubling fact of all. It ought to send shivers up the spine of every American who believes we as a nation must strive toward unity rather than racial division. Whether or not the media is interested, you should be.