JERUSALEM – Sen. Barack Obama employed and continues to employ senior staffers who belong to the Nation of Islam, and the presidential candidate has some “worrying” ties to the controversial group headed by Louis Farrakhan, a former key Obama insider told WND.
The former insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expressed particular concern that Obama employed at least two Nation members in his early days as a state senator, when his office was staffed by only a handful of workers.
“When you’re a state senator, you have little money given to you to hire staff. It is ironic that two of Obama’s employees in those days were known Nation of Islam activists when Obama employed perhaps a total of maybe three or four staffers,” said the former insider.
The former insider confirmed Obama is directly aware of the Nation of Islam members on his staff.
Obama was elected to the Illinois state Senate in 1996, serving the 13th district, which then spanned Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods, including areas in which Farrakhan was considered to be highly influential.
“A key constituency for Obama was Hyde Park, where Farrakhan lives. To be successful politically in that area, you need to be involved with Farrakhan, since he’s a strong power in the district,” said the former insider.
The former insider identified early employees of Obama as Nation of Islam members, including Jennifer Mason, who still works in Obama’s Chicago Senate office as director of constituency services – a key community liaison position.
Also, Cynthia K. Miller, whom the former insider identified as a Nation of Islam activist, served Obama in his early state Senate days and later as treasurer for his U.S. senatorial campaign.
Miller was also a paid consultant in 2003 and 2004, according to financial documents obtained by WND. She currently runs a Chicago real estate firm.
The former insider said Obama asked indicted Chicago businessman and Obama financier Tony Rezko to get his treasurer, Miller, a state government job with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
“She got an offer but turned it down. She ended up doing real estate,” the ex-insider said.
The former insider also identified former Obama worker Shakir Muhammad as a Nation of Islam activist. Muhammad was paid by Obama’s office as a photographer in the late 1990s.
According to a black supremacist source tied to Farrakhan, Muhammad previously worked as a bodyguard for the Nation of Islam chief.
The Anti-Defamation League identifies the Nation of Islam, the oldest black nationalist organization, as consistently racist and anti-Semitic.
The Nation of Islam operates “under the guise of instilling African-Americans with a sense of empowerment since its founding in the 1930s,” reads an ADL description.
Mason did not return a WND request for comment at Obama’s Chicago office.
Miller did not reply to phone messages left on her cell phone.
Michael Ortiz, Obama’s deputy press secretary, did not return a WND request for comment about Illinois senator’s alleged ties to Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
WND verified the former insider speaking about Obama’s Nation of Islam workers held a key position with the presidential candidate.
The former insider said he quit, in part, because of Obama’s ties to the Nation of Islam and the senator’s positions on Israel.
“How many Nation of Islam members will work in an Obama White House?” Schlussel asked on her blog.
The exact nature of Obama’s ties to Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam are unclear.
Trumpet magazine cover with Barack Obama and his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.
The presidential candidate repeatedly has denounced Farrakhan’s views and would not accept the Nation of Islam leader’s high profile endorsement.
“You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of minister Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic comments. I think they are unacceptable and reprehensible. I did not solicit this support,” Obama said on NBC in February.
“We’re not doing anything, I assure you, formally or informally with minister Farrakhan,” Obama said.
But Obama’s former church of 20 years – Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago – and his former spiritual adviser, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., have a different view of Farrakhan.
Wright, who accompanied Farrakhan to Libya in 1984, has been involved in Farrakhan initiatives and labeled him “one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century” during a national address to the media in April at which Nation of Islam officials were invited guests.
Obama has appeared at least three times on the cover of Trumpet magazine, founded by Wright, which in 2007 gave Farrakhan its Empowerment Award.
The magazine, to which Obama last year granted a lengthy, exclusive interview, regularly hails Farrakhan.
Wright and Obama reportedly attended the Million Man March on Washington, which was led by Farrakhan and other prominent black leaders such as Al Sharpton.
Another Obama connection to supporters of Farrakhan comes from Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod.
WND reported this week Axelrod sits on the finance committee of St. Sabina, the Chicago Catholic parish that was led by controversial pastor Michael Pfleger, an outspoken Farrakhan supporter who hosted the Nation of Islam chief at his parish several times.
The Archdiocese of Chicago yesterday removed Pfleger from his duties at St. Sabina for an unspecified time following a well-publicized sermon at Trinity church two weeks ago in which Pfleger claimed Sen. Hillary Clinton cried in public because she thought being white entitled her to the Democratic presidential nomination.
Pfleger told the Chicago Sun-Times he felt free to speak about Clinton because he believed his sermon was not being recorded. He said he thought the live Internet link that normally broadcasts Trinity sermons was not running.
“They told me it was down,” Pfleger said. “Their live streaming had been down all day, and they didn’t know whether it was back up. … I regret the dramatization that I was naive enough to believe was just going to be kept among that church.”
Pfleger hosted Farrakhan at his church as late as last May, Farrakhan’s first public appearance since he announced in 2006 he had been suffering from prostate cancer and was seriously ill.
According to reports, Pfleger spent hours with the Nation of Islam chief during his illness. Pfleger previously enlisted Farrakhan’s support for several of his initiatives, including an anti-gun protest last year.
Rev. Willie Barrow, a member of the Obama campaign’s official Faith Outreach Team and a pledged Obama superdelegate, is a close friend of Farrakhan’s and a staunch Nation of Islam supporter.
Farrakhan stated in a 2002 interview he met with Barrow to devise his Nation of Islam platforms.
In 2006, Barrow condemned four Jewish members of the Illinois state Hate Crimes Commission after Blagojevich refused to remove from the commission Sister Claudette Muhammad, Farrakhan’s minister of protocol.
“Not only should [Muhammad] continue to serve on the commission, but, I think those that resigned because they disagree, what have they done to bring about an agreement?” Barrow told the CBS affiliate in Chicago, WBBM.
Larry Johnson of the No Quarter blog posted a 2004 photo of Obama’s wife, Michelle, posing with Barrow at a woman’s luncheon for the Rainbow/Push Coalition for which Barrow serves as chairman emeritus.
In the picture with Michelle Obama is Khadijah Farrakhan, Louis Farrakhan’s wife.
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