US President Barack Obama gestures for the crowd to keep quiet about his visit to the O&H Danish Bakery to buy kringle pastries so that First Lady Michelle Obama wouldn’t find out about the visit, during a town hall event on the economy at Racine Memorial Hall in Racine, Wisconsin, June 30, 2010. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

While I am in complete agreement with the First Amendment in that Congress can’t impose legal restrictions on the press, I am not one of those who believes that the media have any sacrosanct role in protecting democracy. Rather the opposite. From the beginning of the republic, media have been inextricably tied to political parties and causes.

The idea of an unbiased press is one of the most pernicious falsehoods ever perpetrated on the American people. Newspapers, not just editorial pages but reporters, pick winners and losers and shamelessly push their own agenda onto the public in the form of news.

Though I’m reliably told that it is no longer permissible to point out the error-filled and completely false stories that emanate from such places as CNN because by pointing out their stupidity and duplicity we encourage nutbars to shoot those places up and are therefore complicit  in the carnage, the fact remains that rarely a week goes by without a major political story being either retracted or substantially updated. When the errors run in a single direction, it becomes rather difficult to say, “news is a messy business, we make mistakes, but we correct them.”

While the past year has demonstrated the extent to which newsrooms across the nation are in the bag for the Democrats, this is not new. We don’t play “Name That Party” just for fun. We saw how the wildly inappropriately named “Candy” Crowley jumped into the presidential debate to rescue Obama from Mitt Romney. But while it is more pervasive today it has a history.

The press knew that JFK not only had health problems but he also was a horndog of the first magnitude. No one reported on it because the press was invested in his presidency. To a lesser extent, the press was well aware of LBJ’s bizarre habits, not the least of which was entering the bedrooms of female staff and climbing into bed with them.

When Barack Obama announced he was running for president in a year where Hillary thought it was her turn, he was saddled by political affiliations that would have destroyed any Republican and most Democrats. His mentor had been an active and unrepentant terrorist. His minister was an openly vicious racist who proclaimed his hatred of America. And it was rumored that Obama had a long affiliation with Louis Farrakhan, a huckster that has turned raw Antisemitism and racism into a business empire. This is how Huffington Post covered a film called Hype: The Obama Effect that sought to puncture the “clean and articulate” mythos of Obama.

Of course, the familiar clips of Rev. Jeremiah Wright have a starring role in the documentary. Ken Blackwell declares: “either he was asleep…or he embraced the theology in its totality.” The notion that you could listen to a preacher without agreeing completely is so totally anathema to the far right that they can’t even imagine it was possible for Obama to disagree with his pastor without walking out of church.

Sometimes guilt by association isn’t enough. A parade of clips of Louis Farrakhan spouting anti-white and anti-Semitic comments is justified by guilt by association with association, because Obama has no connection with Farrakhan but Obama’s former church had a newsletter that praised Farrakhan. The documentary even makes the extraordinary (and ridiculous) step of proposing geographical guilt by association, with the narrator ominously intoning: “Obama and Minister Farrakhan live within walking distance of one another.”

Except it wasn’t guilt by association. It was just basic guilt.

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 political future.

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 said.

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 difference.”

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.

In 2016, Farrakhan gave an interview that revealed much deeper financial and organizational ties to Obama and he mentions this picture.

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Imagine that photo hitting in 2007/2008? Obama might have been able to survive it, but it would have made the Dem primary and the general election much more interesting. I suspect those “blue collar whites” who voted for Obama might have gone a different direction. I suspect the donors that supported Obama might have run like scalded dogs. And now just try to imagine any member of the press doing this for a Republican. Even a nice, inoffensive one like Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush.

Why did this happen? Because a reporter was personally invested in Obama’s candidacy.

So, no, I don’t want the press legally muzzled. But neither do I think any part of the government owes them respect or deference or access.