Martin Bashir's Interview With Louis Farrakhan

These are unedited excerpts from an interview between "Nightline's" Martin Bashir and Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam. This interview aired on "Nightline" March 8, 2007.

Farrakhan on His Health:

BASHIR: Many of your supporters and followers are interested to know exactly what your condition is. Do you have cancer? Because we know that it started as prostate cancer.

FARRAKHAN: Yes, um, unfortunately, or fortunately, when they went in to remove the prostate, they found cancer in the colon. So they cut that out, and the margins were clear, the lymph nodes were clear. And so they believe that they have it, but I'm undergoing testing right now to make sure that I'm clear of that. And you go over one mountain and you get down in a valley and you've got another mountain to climb, but God is great, and he has brought me from a mighty long way, and I believe he'll see me through until it's time for me to come in.

BASHIR: There were also consequences as a result of some pellets that were placed in your body. Did they make matters worse or improve things?

FARRAKHAN: Well, in one sense, they improved things, because they killed the cancer, but the radiation was so strong that unfortunately it affected the colon and the urethra. I had a fistula or a hole, where there was communication between the two, and that made it very difficult for me. But all of that has been removed and cleared up from the surgery.

BASHIR: I want to ask you a couple of questions about yourself. You have a, you've had cancer, which normally is a terminal illness. You're not going to live forever. What are your reflections on where you've come and where we are today?

FARRAKHAN: Certainly, I'm very aware of my mortality, and I'm very aware that I have fewer years in front of me than behind me.

BASHIR: Any regrets? Do you have any regrets?


BASHIR: Are you sorry for anything you've said or done?


BASHIR: Do you want to apologize to any of the groups that may have felt offended by you?

FARRAKHAN: No. No. I said to some of the groups that have quote unquote been offended by my words, come, let's sit down and reason together. Show me where what I said was wrong. I can correct the manner of my delivery, that I can regret. But the words, if they're true, I would be a hypocrite to back down on the truth that I spoke. But I welcome dialogue, come, let's sit down, you don't like this, you don't like that, tell me what you don't like, and defend it with truth. Then I will go before the world where I made the error and apologize. I'm not a proud man, if I've offended you and you show me where I'm wrong, which is your duty, then I will acknowledge it if I believe it and repent of it, and go before the world and say, I'm in error, please forgive me.

BASHIR: You've come a long way yourself, 'cause you were a calypso singer in the day.


BASHIR: You remember that?

FARRAKHAN: Yes, of course. I can't forget that. I just recorded "The Sparrow," who was one of the greatest calypsonians. I'm doing a musical album. I know you actually wanted me to play the violin, but since the operation something has happened with my nerves, and it's going to take a little time for my fingers to get stronger so I can play again. But I haven't played in four months, so I wouldn't bring my violin out to play. And I know it was in Jet magazine that I played, but I didn't play, I just held the violin up and took a picture.

BASHIR: OK, great. Thank you, sir. Thank you so much.

On Politics:

BASHIR: A black man, Barack Obama, has announced that he's standing for president of the United States of America. Do you support him?

FARRAKHAN: I like him very much. I like him, he has a fresh approach. And I'm fearful, because there's a structure in our government that no matter who sits in the seat of power, there are forces that one has to contend with if one is able to attract the masses of their votes. Barack Obama is doing quite well. He has a broad spectrum of young people, black and white and Asian and Hispanic, and he might fool a lot of people and get the nomination of his party. That's not my fear.

He's a beautiful young man. My fear is when you get in a seat and you don't know the electrical current that's up under your seat, and you start getting these jolts and you got to see where the jolt is coming from, and now you got to bend to multinational corporations and their interests, you got to bend to this group and that group. Remember we gave you so much money, and remember we did this for you. That's the hard part. He's started off quite well.

BASHIR: Some people have said that he's deliberately avoiding controversial black figures like yourself, Mr. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, for fear of alienating white voters.

FARRAKHAN: First of all, he…

BASHIR: Do you think that's true?

FARRAKHAN: I would give him credit. If my, if avoiding me would help him to become president, I'd be glad to stay in the background, because of the taint that's on the minister. Reverend Al Sharpton is different. Reverend Al gave a very impressive speech at the last Democratic Convention. He's broad, but he comes from the black experience. He's always there fighting for justice. It's the same with Reverend Jackson. Well, Barack Obama is fighting for justice too, but not from a position where they can say he's a radical. But he still feels the pain. But he rises above it and reaches.

BASHIR: But do you think he's deliberately avoiding people …

FARRAKHAN: I can't say that.

BASHIR: … like yourself to avoid alienating potential white voters?

FARRAKHAN: I can't say that, because I haven't made myself available to him.

BASHIR: Has he reached out to you?

FARRAKHAN: He hasn't made himself available to me. But you know, we've got almost a year, eight months or so, nine months before the election. We don't know what tomorrow will bring. And I told you, I'm coming out of prison, so it might be all right to be seen with Farrakhan in a few minutes.

BASHIR: There was some controversy about Mr. Obama's early Muslim education. Do you think that may have hurt his chances?

FARRAKHAN: No. No, in a world, brother Bashir, where 20 years ago you might have read the name Muhammed Ali in the paper in some vague reference to Islam, but there's not a paper that you pick up today that doesn't have some reference to a Muslim or Islam, whether it's radical or secular or this or that. So when a man gets into the presidency who has some appreciation for the culture of Islam as well as the culture of Christianity and is respectful of the Jewish culture, that man has a heck of a chance to heal wounds and to bring people together.

So even though he doesn't have a lot of international exposure and experience, the man has been made for the hour, and he has a heart for his people in Africa, as you saw recently when he went to his father's home, even though his father was an absentee father. He showed great respect for his father, for his grandmother, his paternal grandmother, and the people of Africa. That will carry him well. But he also has respect for black suffering in America or wherever that is in the world. And the beautiful speech that he gave in Alabama on the crossing of the Edmund Peddes Bridge, shows the depth and the breadth of this young man. I just hope that the corrupt wellspring of politics, that he will always stay close to the purification that comes from being deeply committed spiritually to God and the principle of justice and equity.

BASHIR: So do you think that he really is that man of the moment? He will be able to unite these disparate forces?

FARRAKHAN: Let us see, 'cause he's just starting on a long journey.

BASHIR: But that's what you're suggesting.

FARRAKHAN: Right. He is on that road, and what I see in him is that more than anyone else that's running, he has the ability to attract black and white and Hispanic youth. And it's the youth that are disenchanted, it's the youth that are dissatisfied, it's the youth that have to fight the wars, it's the youth that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. And so, a man like Barack, I think, has more sway with young people than all of the other candidates.

BASHIR: What about Mrs. Clinton?

FARRAKHAN: Not the young people. Mrs. Clinton is formidable, but Barack is even more.

BASHIR: Hillary Clinton was, her husband, Bill Clinton, was described as a black president. What does that make her?

FARRAKHAN: Really, not much. Although black people looked at Bill Clinton as a black president, he did less for black people than other presidents. We lost the safety net under his administration, for welfare mothers. We lost a lot. But his charisma, no one can take that away from Mr. Clinton. His ability to use language in many ways has attracted the hearts of black people. And the more the establishment beat up on him with his inappropriate behavior, the more black people understood his weakness, and forgave him, and came around him.

I loved Hillary, excuse me for saying Hillary, loved Mrs. Clinton, for her standing by her man, even though she was hurt, and maybe even slightly embittered. She showed the strength of a woman who could forgive her husband and keep going to present to America a family image: a mother, a father and a daughter.

BASHIR: What about former Mayor Rudy Giuliani?


BASHIR: Mr. Giuliani, of course, in New York, had some pretty severe conflicts with the black community when he was mayor. Do you think he stands much of a chance of winning the black vote?

FARRAKHAN: No. Not at all. He could parade every black person that he knows in front of black people, he'll have a difficult time.


FARRAKHAN: His, well his behavior, as a mayor of the city of New York, was not the best for black people, and certainly not for Muslims. Because the police attacked our mosque in New York, and his former chief of police, who is now the chief of police, or police superintendent, in Los Angeles, was told by him, according to what Chief Bratton wrote in his book, to go kill the Muslims. And he refused to do it because he had a pretty good relationship with the Muslims in Boston under the leadership of Minister Don Muhammed. So Giuliani, unless he's changed, and people do change, you know …

BASHIR: You've changed.

FARRAKHAN: No, I've grown. Well, that's change too. I felt for Mr. Giuliani when I heard that he had prostate cancer, and I wanted to write him and tell him about seed implantation, and I think he did get seed implantation and is now completely free of cancer. He'll be formidable.

BASHIR: But he won't win the black vote.

FARRAKHAN: No. Neither will McCain, neither will anybody in the Republican Party that I see right now.

BASHIR: Whoever actually comes into the White House will confront some very serious tensions, particularly in relation to Islamic countries throughout the world. What do you think of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq and this war on terror?

FARRAKHAN: It was an error, and an error is an intentional departure from what is correct. That attack has brought on him and on America disfavor from around the world. Whoever gets in the White House, and seriously I'm thinking that two years or 18 months or 20 months is too long a period to let him linger there without the Democrats responding appropriately to the vote that people took last November.

If you cannot impeach him because it would throw the country into disarray, and if you can't take him out and leave Mr. Cheney, or Condoleezza, or any of them, that group has lied to the American people, that group has deceived the Congress, that group has manipulated intelligence to make policy, uh, intelligence fit policy, I'm sorry, make policy fit intelligence. And if they didn't like the intelligence, they changed the intelligence, because their policy was to invade Iraq. Their mind-set was to invade Iraq. So terrorism has increased all over the world since our error in, um, in Iraq. And so, I would hope that we would sit down with Iran, sit down with Syria, these are people that you can talk to if you respect their sovereignty.

On His Beliefs:

BASHIR: Its noticeable that you're using different language compared to the sort of things you've said in the past. Are you saying now that you regret some of those inflammatory statements?

FARRAKHAN: I can never, ever regret speaking the truth. But the way I speak truth, the passion I have for the truth that I speak can sometimes get in the way of people hearing what I have to say. That's all part of my growth and development. So I'm not today what I was but I'm hoping that the language that I use will get past yesterday's barriers and that I will be more clear and understood. I've always been understood by black people but greatly misunderstood by others than my own. But this is a universal teaching and if you're misunderstood by the world and only understood by your own people we miss the mark.

BASHIR: Do you regard the honorable Elijah Muhammed as God?


BASHIR: You don't?

FARRAKHAN: No! We regard him as a warner, we regard him as a guide, and I look upon him as a Messianic figure.

BASHIR: So he was somebody who came to speak the words of God, but he isn't God himself?

FARRAKHAN: No. He came to speak the words of God, but we would be foolish to worship him as if he were in fact the originator of the heavens and earth.

BASHIR: Do you regard yourself then as his messenger on earth, the little messiah?

FARRAKHAN: I regard myself as his extension. An extension of his warning, an extension of his guidance, an extension of his message, but I don't go so far as to call myself a messenger of God. Nothing like that. But maybe a little messiah, but a very teeny one.

BASHIR: In terms of your beliefs, do you still regard white people as devils created by an evil scientist?

FARRAKHAN: Well, the truth is, any human being that rebels against God, and rebels against his law, can be classified as a devil. If we look at the behavior of white people in their relationship to the darker people of the world, we couldn't say that they acted as angels. They acted quite the contrary. But we're in a time of enlightenment now. The darker people of the world are rising and challenging racist institutions, and now white people have a chance to change their behavior, change a historical pattern in dealing with the darker people of the world. And we who have been trained in rebellion to God have a chance to come out of that rebellion into submission. And when we submit to the will of God, it makes no difference what our color is, we are brothers and sisters in faith.

BASHIR: So today, in 2007, do you regard white people as devils?

FARRAKHAN: The honorable Elijah Muhammed instructed me before he left to change that language. Yes, white people have acted as devils, no question about that. But he told me, don't use that language any more. I want you to use the language Satan, the slave master's children, and the slave master. And I asked myself later, God, I should have questioned him: Why do you want me to change the language that you instituted? It's because Satan is a mecca of devils, and he makes evil fair-seeming, so whether you're black or white or red or yellow, if you come under the deceitful touch of Satan, he'll make what is immoral look moral, and what is moral look immoral.

BASHIR: What about the anthem you wrote "that a white man's heaven is a black man's hell?"

FARRAKHAN: Absolutely true. Absolutely generally true. Specifically true. We built a heaven for white people in America. We built it. It was built on our backs. And while we were building them a heaven we were in the cotton fields picking cotton. They were whipping the daylights out of us, they were lynching us, burning us at the state. We were living in hell while we were producing a heaven for others. Your father was Pakistani, but at one time all India was ruled by the British. You were living in a veritable hell while the British were sucking the blood of the Indian population until Mahatma Ghandi stood up and united Hindu and Muslim and threw off the yoke. So yes, that is true but we can change all of that. Hell is condition of life, and we can turn hell into heaven. White folk don't have the power to make us stay in hell if we don't wanna stay there. That's our fault today.

BASHIR: You, I want again to go over, you remember the vision you experienced in 1985 on top of an Aztec mountain?


BASHIR: When you said that you had been beamed on board a UFO and flew into space. Do you still maintain that that's what happened to you?

FARRAKHAN: Oh, absolutely. I've maintained that for, since 1985, which is, what, 21 years now. I have never deviated from that experience, because that experience was as real to me as you sitting in front of me, Mr. Bashir.

On Racial Mixing:

BASHIR: Do you still stand firm on the issue of racial mixing?

FARRAKHAN: I don't like it. No, no.

BASHIR: Why not?

FARRAKHAN: The black woman is suffering today from no black men. Black men in jail, black men on the corner, black men uneducated. Go look at the black colleges or white colleges you see black women in there getting the finest education. Where will their counterparts be when they get out of college? There's no male counterpart that's even worthy, or very few, that are even worthy to marry these young women who are trying to be chemists and scientists and mathematicians and engineers. So we need to wake up, that's why I called the Million Man March. I wanted to get black men to take their responsibility. No, you can't legislate against love, so when a black person and a white person are truly in love I have nothing to say about it.

BASHIR: Do you forbid black and white dating and marriage?

FARRAKHAN: I would love to forbid it because we are so far behind. Our women don't have adequate men, so I want the black men to marry the black woman. I want the white woman to marry the white man.


FARRAKHAN: 'Cause that's the natural thing. If it were not natural you would have many many many many many cross-marriages. You don't find that many Chinese marrying white people. Or Indian people or black people. You find it somewhere, but Chinese marry Chinese, white people marry white people, what's wrong with black people marrying black people? That don't mean we're racist, but we look at the crossing of the two. Well, OK they're in love, love transcends ethnicity and racial boundaries and there will come a time when human beings will love each other enough or respect each other enough that there will be a cross between this and that, but the nature of things is if China became Muslim tomorrow, they ain't marrying Japanese. They ain't even marrying Koreans.

BASHIR: But doesn't it tell us that a society is advancing in it's compassion and understanding of equality?

FARRAKHAN: Is it really?

BASHIR: If people can mix?

FARRAKHAN: Is it really advancing if there's no advancement in the intellectual capacity of the masses of the people?

BASHIR: But I'm not talking about academic achievement.

FARRAKHAN: But what I'm talking about sir, is a slave mentality where the slave is always admiring the slave master's woman. There was a time in America just a few short years ago when we could be lynched for just looking under a white woman's dress that was on a clothes line (laughs), much less trying to get sexually intimate with a white woman. So that history is right with us. You know when you talk to me like that I want you to sit with Jewish people and ask them how far have you grown? Are you will in to marry a German today? Is that easy for you? How do you bring a German home to someone who has the numbers engraved in their hand? That they were a victim of the holocaust so you have to be sensitive to what your people have suffered. Over time they say time heals wounds … well it ain't quite time yet for Jews and Germans to just mix up like that.

BASHIR: And is it time for black and white?

FARRAKHAN: Well it's time for us to understand each other better. Time for us to try to get along with each other better. The principle of justice is the means by which enemies become friends.

BASHIR: But aren't you yourself the product of interracial marriage?

FARRAKHAN: I absolutely am, but it wasn't interracial marriage sir, it was interracial rape. My momma was a black woman. My father was half white. So when you were on a plantation you didn't tell the master you couldn't have a black woman. White men have always had access to the black woman and because of that lighter skinned black men and women were fashioned out of that relationship. Today that's a voluntary thing but in those days it was actually rape.

BASHIR: If you yourself are the product of a family background which involved interracial mixing, why do you so oppose it today?

FARRAKHAN: I just feel for the black woman. She's our woman that God gave us and she's suffering. She's suffering from the lack of a man. Black women suffering from the lack of a real true father and a true husband in the house. We know how to make the babies but we're very bad in taking care of our responsibility. I have a duty by black men to raise us up from that condition to give black men and black women a chance to relate better to each other. Then if love comes into the picture across racial lines, then we'll deal with [it] that at that time, but it's not love today, it's more lust.

BASHIR: You were just talking about, making the very important point that there's been individualistic advance by black leaders in various fields -- politics, financially, sports. There hasn't been this collective growth or improvement. The average black wage is still only 75 percent of the average white wage in America. And in fact, black median net worth is about $6,000 compared to $88,000 for whites. Does that tell you then that all the efforts that you've given through your life to raise the plight of the black man and woman have really been largely ineffective?

FARRAKHAN: To a degree. All of us who are in leadership, we look at the condition of our people. The condition of our people tells us how effective we have been but there's a time that our people will fully awaken. The knowledge is there. We can create the opportunity. We can rise above where we are. There's severe opposition to our rise but the Koran teaches that all opposition at some point will cease.

The questions that you are putting to me, the answers that God blesses me to give … the speech that I made last Sunday in Detroit is all like breaking me out of prison. I'm in a prison, not because I deserve to be there but my passion for truth and justice and pointing out the wrong that I see not only in the government of the United States or in other ethnic or racial groups but the wrong that I see in my own people.

Why do you point out wrong? Because you hate? You point out wrong because you hope that by pointing out wrong someone will recognize the wrong, confess it, repent of it and change. So I'm getting out of jail now, and I believe that as I come more out of prison, I'm out of the cell now and the warden seems to have lost the keys, but I found him. And I intend to get completely out of jail by God's permission so that the American people can know that Farrakhan is not anti-white, Farrakhan is not anti-Semitic, Farrakhan is not anti-American, Farrakhan is not not anti-gay. Farrakhan is pro-black and believe me I would be fool not to be "pro" the country in which I was born and nurtured and have grown.

I would like to see America in a much better position and condition then she's in right now but I don't think she's making the right steps. I don't think the present government is leading her in the right direction. In fact, I really believe we need a regime change in the United States of America.

On Judaism and Religion:

BASHIR: So, do you now regret describing Judaism as a dirty religion?

FARRAKHAN: I never said that --

BASHIR: You never said that?

FARRAKHAN: No, of course not. And it bothers me that some 20 years later I still have to answer …

BASHIR: Please do …

FARRAKHAN: I'm not gonna waste time with that. I've been on ABC, I've been on "Nightline," I've been on all those television shows and answered those same questions. And that would just be taking me back in time and I think if you really wanna get my answers go back in your files. You have them.

BASHIR: What about referring to Hitler as being "wickedly great"?

FARRAKHAN: I stand by that statement today.

BASHIR: You think he was wickedly great?

FARRAKHAN: What does great mean, to you?

BASHIR: Substantive, impressive.

FARRAKHAN: Wasn't he? You're still talking about him.

BASHIR: I have to stay I don't think he was impressive for murdering 6 million Jews.

FARRAKHAN: No, that's not impressive, that's wicked, so I used an adverb to describe an adjective. I was perfectly in accord with the English language which is not mine, but you taught it to me and I learned it quite well. So I was not wrong, GREAT is not synonymous with GOOD except in colloquial language. Babylon was great but wasn't good.

BASHIR: Can you understand why people would have found that so offensive?

FARRAKHAN: No, I really don't. I really think its a mental illness with people. When I speak very clearly, if I say the man was wicked but he was so great that you're still talking about him 50 years later, if he didn't make an impact on Jewish people, and an impact on the world, why are you still referring to him, why are you still making movies about him? Why are you still making movies about him, why are you still teaching the world what he did? Let him die. Let him die. Then his so-called greatness of that time would die with him. But he's as great today in terms of his magnitude, in terms of his effect on people, as he was then.

And like some people say to black people, which is an affront, GET OVER IT. Hitler is dead and gone. And his ideas are weak and they are being destroyed by a greater presence of truth so he will die when his ideas die. He's been dead. But have you killed the idea of Aryan supremacy, have you killed the idea of anti-Semitism and hatefulness toward Jews? No you have not killed that idea yet. So that man, who was the greatest exponent of it in terms of not just what he said but what he did, no, let him die.

BASHIR: What about you saying that Jews were blood-suckers because they didn't offer anything back to the community?

FARRAKHAN: You know if you go back, that statement was made on "Meet the Press" the day before the Million Man March. And my brother Johnny Cochran was being interviewed and you know how you all do.

I'm giving you a lot of material, what will you use? What will you present to the American people of Farrakhan? Not you personally, because you are subjected to editors, you are subjected to people who have another view. You're here to get information but what they do with it, that's another thing. I said Jews, Arabs, Koreans, Chinese, others and black people taking from our community, building up their communities and doing nothing for our community. They are blood-suckers of the poor. And when that came up on "Meet the Press" they took out all the other people that I mentioned and mentioned just the Jewish people.

So that feeds the thought that Farrakhan is an anti-Semite. Well in that case, call me anti-black because there are black people that suck the blood of black people and give nothing back. There are Koreans right now that do that, there are Arabs right that do that. But I say that and I don't back up from that.

On President Ahmadinejad and Israel:

BASHIR: You think you can talk to President Ahmadinejad?

FARRAKHAN: I know you can. If you can't, if the president can't, I can.

BASHIR: You think it's possible to talk to a man who dismisses the Holocaust as if it didn't happen and preaches against the state of Israel?

FARRAKHAN: Now, you know, we have intellectual freedom. If that man wants to have a conference of so-called scholars to see whether the Holocaust is fact or fiction, let him do it. We believe in freedom, that's what we say we're fighting for. Doesn't he have the freedom to disagree? Of course he does. Whether we agree with his disagreement, that's another thing. But he has the right to disagree with the Holocaust. Right now, in Europe, if you even say something against the reality of the Holocaust, you would be jailed. What does that say? And all of us talk about how we're so democratic and how we love freedom of speech and whatnot and whatnot, but everybody's being punished for saying what's in their mind.

There's a woman who was over the Cincinnati Reds, I believe, and she made a foolish statement, but it was what she thought. She had to suffer because it was politically incorrect. This black man, who made a statement, what he hates, if that's what you feel, we don't like your statement, your statement manifests this or that, but now they've punished the man for telling you what he really feels in his heart. So people then are forced to be hypocrites: Oh, yes, the Holocaust did exist, of course it does, blah blah blah blah blah blah.

So if I say something incorrect I won't go to jail. You're forcing people to be hypocritical about what they feel, and yet at the same time say freedom of speech.

BASHIR: The problem, though, with someone like President Ahmadinejad is not just that he denies the Holocaust but that he also wants to incite violence against Israel. That's why people object.

FARRAKHAN: Because he, like Saddam, like Bashar Al-Assad, they have never agreed that the state of Israel is legitimate to them with the Palestinian suffering. They have that right to disagree. They have that right to seek Palestinian rights and justice for the Palestinian people. They, what Ahmadinejad, from what I understand, was saying, well, if the Holocaust took place in Europe, maybe Europe should have divided up some of it's territory and given it and provided a Jewish state there.

Most of the Europeans that came out of Europe, they never lived in the Middle East, they're not the Sephardim, they're not the Middle Eastern Jew, they have no connection to that land except through their biblical interpretation of scripture. So, so to remove Palestinians and make them vagabonds on the earth, to do that, if Ahmadinejad does not agree with that, if Bashar Al-Assad does not agree with that, if Saddam Hussein does not agree with that, and the protection of Israel is the cornerstone of America's foreign policy, then that puts America, Israel, some European countries right after Iran, Iraq, and Syria. And that's the politics of the situation.

So we're looking at Ahmadinejad from this house that is so pro-Israeli to the heart of America. I know that Israel is the friend of America. There's nothing wrong with friendship, that friendship has existed since 1948. But when your friend does things that may not do good for you and for them, the good friend will stand up and say, no, you shouldn't do that. And America has great leverage with Israel, but if you don't use that leverage to bring about some form of justice in that area, then the area is going to explode.

And that's what's happening right now. So some of the people have said to President Bush, look, man, you've got to get back on the peace thing with the Palestinians and the Israelis.