Martin Bashir's Interview With Louis Farrakhan

ByABC News
March 9, 2007, 11:24 AM

March 9, 2007 — -- 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.

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.

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.