Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan continued his defense of embattled Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi during a press conference in Chicago Thursday, and slammed the United States' decision to get involved in the conflict.
The 78-year-old leader of the Chicago-based organization spoke at Mosque Maryam, the Nation of Islam headquarters, according to the Chicago Tribune.
"It is a terrible thing for me to hear my brother called all these ugly and filthy names when I can't recognize him as that," Farrakhan said of Gaddafi, according to the Tribune. "Even though the current tide is moving against him ... how can I refuse to raise my voice in his defense? Why would I back down from those who have given so much."
Farrakhan has publicly defended Gaddafi a number of times since the Libyan uprising began. He reportedly visited the Libyan leader in the 1980s, and told attendees of a Nation of Islam convention in February that the United States should stay out of Libya's affairs.
He also said that if Gaddafi is persecuted for crimes against humanity, the same should apply to former President George W. Bush for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Name one ruler that has the 100 love of his people," Farrakhan said in February. "You can't find one."
In Mississippi on Friday, Farrakhan said the U.S. lacks the moral authority to intervene in the Libyan conflict, citing the deaths of black people at the hands of law enforcement during the Rodney King protests in 1991 and the unhealthy food that the federal government allows into the marketplace.
"The American people are dying, and the Food and Drug Administration is complicit," he said. "Greed is more important than the lives of the American people."
Gaddafi reportedly addressed Nation of Islam members via satellite in 1997. The Tribune reports:
During that speech, Gadhafi panned America for taxing poor people, who do not benefit from exploratory trips to Mars and support of "a Hebrew state."
"Consequently," he said, "the voice of Louis Farrakhan will be heard among the simple people louder than the president of the United States," at the time President Bill Clinton.
On Friday, Farrakhan told supporters that President Obama had backed down from pushing a Palestinian-Israeli peace accord and banning settlement-building in the West Bank, calling him "the first Jewish president." Obama is a Christian.
"He was selected before he was elected," Farrakhan said. "And the people that selected him were rich, powerful members of the Jewish community."
Jewish leaders in Mississippi last week criticized Farrakhan for distorting historical fact in order to perpetuate harmful stereotypes. The Anti-Defamation League said recently that Farrakhan's anti-Semitism is "obsessive, diabolical and unrestrained."
Farrakhan has over the years denied claims of anti-Semitism, arguing his remarks are often taken out of context and that criticism of Jews in any light automatically earns the "anti-Semite" label. The Nation of Islam has espoused black nationalism and self-reliance since it was founded in the 1930s, though in recent years it has included other groups, including Latinos and immigrants.
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