A journalist announced last week
that he will publish a photograph of then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama
(D) and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan that he took in 2005
at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting, but did not make public
because he believed it would have “made a difference” to Obama’s
The photographer, Askia
Muhammad, told the
Trice Edney News Wire that he “gave the picture up at the time and
basically swore secrecy.”
“But after the nomination was
secured and all the way up until the inauguration; then for eight
years after he was President, it was kept under cover,” Muhammad
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
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 said he gave away “the
disk” from his camera but “copied the photograph from that day onto
a file” on his computer.
“Realizing that I had given it up,
I mean, it was sort of like a promise to keep the photograph
secret,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad said he did not release
his copy of the photograph because he thought it would be perceived
as a betrayal of that promise: “I was really, I guess, afraid of
Muhammad said he thought the
photograph would be “damaging politically” if it were released and
was afraid that someone might “break into his apartment” looking for
it, like “that Watergate crap.” He said he “felt a little bit
more at ease” after Farrakhan in 2016 claimed that
Obama visited his home in Chicago. Muhammad contacted Farrakhan in
autumn 2017 with the “final manuscript” for a self-published book
containing the photo.
“I sent him a copy of the
manuscript suggesting that, showing him the picture, and saying to
him, if he did not object, I was going to publish it,” Muhammad
said. “He had no objection.”
Muhammad also told TPM that around
the time he took the photo, he asked Obama about a perceived
resemblance to Farrakhan.
“I asked the senator, ‘Has anyone
ever told you that you resemble Minister Farrakhan?'” Muhammad said.
“And he said what I thought was the perfect answer: ‘Well, he’s much
better looking than I am.'”
TPM learned about the photograph
and Muhammad’s upcoming book from a write-up in Richard Prince’s
A spokesperson for the
Congressional Black Caucus suggested that TPM contact the caucus’
former chair, Mel Watt, who now leads the Federal Housing Finance
Agency. Watt did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for
A spokesperson for Obama referred
TPM to remarks he
made in 1995 after attending the Million Man March that Farrakhan
organized. At the time, Obama said that “anti-Semitic and anti-Asian
statements are not going to lift us up” and said the march’s
organizers were lacking “a positive agenda, a coherent agenda for
Muhammad is the news director at
Washington, D.C. radio station WPFW and has served as
the head of the Washington offices of the Nation of Islam’s official
newspaper, The Final
Farrakhan is a minister who leads
the Nation of Islam and has made anti-Semitic remarks.
During Obama’s presidential campaign, conservatives pushed multiple
motivated conspiracy theories about Obama’s
religion and supposed ties to Islam.