During the 2008 presidential race, then-Sen. Barack Obama worked to distance himself from his old pastor, Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ’s Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen wrote at the time how Wright had granted a lifetime achievement award to radical Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
…[Farrakhan] has vilified whites and singled out Jews to blame for crimes large and small, either committed by others as well or not at all. (A dominant role in the slave trade, for instance.) He has talked of Jewish conspiracies to set a media line for the whole nation. He has reviled Jews in a manner that brings Hitler to mind.
And yet, as Cohen noted at the time, Obama’s pastor and spiritual adviser “heaped praise” on Farrakhan in awarding him the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeteer Award, claiming Farrakhan had “truly epitomized greatness.”
In response, Obama was forced to release this statement:
I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet Magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree.
But Wright’s relationship with the controversial Farrakhan extended far beyond an award. In 1984, Wright personally accompanied Farrakhan to Libya to meet with Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli. In 2008, Wright even predicted his association with Farrakhan and Gaddafi may cause political headaches for Obama’s presidential aspirations: “When [Obama's] enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli to visit [Gadhafi] with Farrakhan, a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell,” he said.
The Libyan dictator has been a strong supporter of Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and heavily financed the controversial group. In 1985, Gaddafi affirmed his solidarity with Farrakhan with a $5 million interest-free loan.
In 1996, officials in the Clinton administration worked to block Farrakhan from receiving more than $1 billion in donations from Gaddafi.
”We are not terrorists,” Farrakhan said at the time. ”We are not trying to do anything against the good of America. What we want to do is good for our people and ultimately good for our nation.”
That same year, Farrakhan traveled to Libya and received Gaddafi’s International Prize for Human Rights, a $250,000 “honor” also bestowed on the likes of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and “the children of Palestine.”
According to reports from Libya’s news agency in 1996, the Farrakhan-Gaddafi alliance was aimed at mobilizing “oppressed blacks, Arabs, Muslims and Red Indians” in the United States to help reshape U.S. foreign policy. Until he allied himself with Farrakhan, Gaddafi reportedly characterized Libyan foreign policy as a “confrontation with America” he likened to “a fight against a fortress from outside.”
But once he asserted his alliance with Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, Gaddafi claimed to have “a breach to enter into this fortress and confront it.”
Trinity United’s Black Liberation Theology provides the basis on which Wright and Farrakhan’s cooperation rests.
During the 2008 election, many Obama critics pointed toward the then-Senator’s close relationship with Wright and criticized the second-degree association with Farrakhan. Wright and Obama are also believed to have attended the Million Man March on Washington, led by Farrakhan and other black leaders, including Rev. Al Sharpton.
“He has been a leader of liberation movements throughout the world, but our government has supported many puppet regimes in Africa and Central and South America,” Farrakhan said.
When Gaddafi traveled to address the United Nations in 2009, Farrakhan again praised him as a “leader of liberation movements throughout the world… I am sure that when people hear him on [U.S.] soil, most will admire him and will learn more about him and respect him,” he added.
“We are hoping that under President Barack Obama, Libya can come more into the sunlight,” Farrakhan added. “The Obama administration can be a great help in this. ”
Now, with unrest in Libya dominating the world’s headlines and the ouster of the murderous Muammar Gaddafi seemingly imminent, many are wondering why the American president has been so silent, especially compared to the Obama administration’s outspoken criticism of Egypt’s recently disposed President Hosni Mubarak.
While there is no evidence which directly ties Obama to Gaddafi, the president’s silence has emboldened many bloggers who have allowed speculation to run rampant. If the president does not step up to publicly condemn Gaddafi’s reported violent attacks on Libyan citizens, rumors will continue to circulate and the Obama administration will face a PR crisis on top of the unfolding crises facing the country and the world.