Mangling Minister Farrakhan
Jude Wanniski
July 16, 2002

 

Memo To: Wolf Blitzer, CNN's Sunday LateEdition
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Good Job, Wolf

What a nice surprise to see you inviting Louis Farrakhan on your Sunday show to discuss his trip to Iraq and the Middle East. I'd practically given up on the idea that he would get a fair shake from anyone in the American press corps, especially on CNN. You remember, of course, that after 9-11, Bob Novak invited him to be a guest on Novak, Hunt & Shields, and both Mark Shields and Albert Hunt, although calling themselves journalists, refused to be on the same show with him, and Novak had to tell him he was disinvited. You may have seen me argue before that it is because the Islamic world gets shut out of American political circles that it produced the suicidal terrorists who tried to bring down the World Trade Center in 1993 and succeeded last year. As a friend of Min. Farrakhan, I had encouraged him to make the Middle East trip as a peacemaker. So it was most discouraging when he arranged a press conference at the National Press Club before he left to discuss the purpose of the trip. Reporters showed up, but when they found out his intent was peaceful, it did not fit the stereotype of him as being a rabid, anti-Semitic hatemonger. Except for a squib in the Chicago papers, it went unmentioned. In fact, the NYTimes has scrupulously avoided any mention of his trip not only his visit to Baghdad, but also his attempt to visit Israel, which denied him and his party entry.

You of course heard the story that when he was in Iraq, the Iraqi News Agency quoted an official of the Baghdad government as saying Farrakhan had said in his meetings with Saddam Hussein's ministers that "all American Muslims were praying for Iraq's victory." The first I heard of this nonsense was in a phone call from the New York Sun on a Sunday night, with a reporter asking my response. I told her I could not believe he said such a thing and went on to defend his mission. I never saw what she wrote, but it did come to the attention of Bill O'Reilly of O'Reilly Factor on FoxNews, and he had a producer invite me on his show the following evening.

What a nasty man. I've been a guest on hundreds of talk shows in my life and this was the first where the host did not make any gesture to greet me when I came on the set. I did extend my hand and after he looked at it a moment, gave it a shake. After the show, he remained seated and did not bother to thank me for the six hours of my life it took to come into the city, prepare for the show, do the six minutes, and return home. The six minutes were painful, let me tell you, as almost every time he asked a question, he would cut me off before I could complete my answer. The only thing he seemed genuinely interested in was my outstanding offer of $1,000 to anyone who could produce evidence that Farrakhan had ever said anything disrespectful of Judaism or the Jewish people. O'Reilly vowed he would find the quote and collect the money... a vow he repeated over his shoulder as I left the studio.

So you see why I was so delighted that you would be so respectful in your interview. As it turned out, Min. Farrakhan had to have a press conference several days after he left Iraq to state that he had never said what the Iraqi News Agency supposedly reported he said, as reported by United Press International. Indeed, he has so often been misquoted by the press that whenever he travels, every word he says in public is taped, and everything he said to the Iraqi ministers is on tape. How come nobody at UPI bothered to inquire of him or his party if he actually called for an "Iraqi victory" over the United States? Well, the national press corps already knows that he is a bigoted bogeyman, and reporters can only advance their careers by producing stories to fit that image. The last time Tim Russert had Farrakhan on Meet the Press, the Anti-Defamation League took out a full-page ad in The New York Times criticizing NBC and Russert for giving a platform to a bigoted bogeyman. I almost expected you and CNN to get that treatment now that you had him on your show and also invited him back, when he returns from his tour.

You know, I'm sure, that Pat Buchanan and Bill Press as of yesterday are hosting a daily 2-hour television show on MSNBC, from 2 pm to 4 pm EDT. Unlike this fellow O'Reilly, Buchanan and Press are pleasant fellows who are seriously interested in getting to the bottom of issues. Like you. I want you to know that Pat e-mailed me today asking if I can persuade Min. Farrakhan to be on their show when he returns, that he will even get him a half hour if he can get "first dibs." I told him I think I could do it, Wolf, but that Min. Farrakhan was so pleased with your interview, that he would probably want to give you first dibs. Thanks again.

P.S. That fellow O'Reilly has still not contacted me demanding the $1,000 reward. After he heard several months ago that I had made the offer, Min. Farrakhan called and told me that ten years ago he had offered $10,000 reward. What drove the ADL berserk when he was on Meet the Press was in stating his concern that there were 45 members of the Clinton administration at the tippy top who were Jewish and there were no Muslims!!! He did not say there should be fewer Jews, but there should at least be one Muslim. If you agree with him, you may be anti-Semitic. Be careful.