Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Nation of Islam hate crime panel member says Ill. governor knew of her Farrakhan ties

Last month, as I posted here, a major story in Illinois was the disclosure that Ill. Governor Rod Blagojevich appointed Claudette Muhammad to the Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes in 2005.

Muhammad is the minister of protocol for Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam.

Stung by that revelation, and further embarrassed by the resignation of four Jewish members of the hate crimes panel, the governor claimed to reporters he was unaware of Muhammad's membership in the controversial group.

Not so, says Muhammad, who told the Chicago Tribune that Blagojevich did know that she was part of the Nation of Islam.

From the Chicago Tribune, free membership may be required:
In a March 2 letter to Blagojevich, commission member Claudette Marie Muhammad said she was "very, very, very disappointed" that the governor told reporters he was only recently aware she was on his Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes. Blagojevich made the remarks earlier while refusing to dismiss Muhammad in the wake of a controversial speech by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Five Jewish leaders quit the panel in response.

"Mr. Governor, your comment stating that you were unaware of my religious affiliation and the fact that I was a top aide to Minister Farrakhan is not true," wrote Muhammad, who did not return telephone calls about the letter recently obtained by the Tribune. "You and I spoke. We took pictures ... I have written to you numerous times, all the letters of which were on our Nation of Islam stationery and, when I signed my name, I always indicated `Chief of Protocol to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan' as my title."

As is usually the case with Blagojevich when faced with a difficult question from the media, he handed the task to an aide, who still claims Blago didn't know, wasn't aware....

Blagojevich, a Chicago Democrat running for re-election, undoubtedly hopes that this whole mess will fade away. As I've written before, he can't afford to lose any part of Illinois' large black vote.

The dilemma for Blago is more acute now, because State Senator James Meeks, an African-American with close ties to Jesse Jackson and his congressman son, began circulating petitions last week to run as an independent for governor this fall.

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