WASHINGTON -- The message was the truth, and the messenger is brilliant. It is only the style that troubled Louis Farrakhan.
Yes, Farrakhan, leader of the National of Islam, is "dismissing" his aide, Khalid Abdul Muhammad, who said vile things about Jews, whites, Catholics and gays in a speech in November.
But Muhammad was speaking the "truth," Farrakhan said yesterday. It was only the "manner" of Muhammad's expression that was wrong.
Khalid had called Jews "bloodsuckers" and said Pope John Paul II was a "cracker." He called gay people "faggots."
But yesterday Farrakhan said he had no problems with that message.
"While I stand by the truths he spoke," Farrakhan said of Muhammad, "I must condemn in the strongest terms the manner in which those truths were represented."
Farrakhan went on to speak rapturously about Muhammad, declaring that he was "brilliant."
"He is like a stallion," Farrakhan said at a news conference, as his followers in the crowd shouted their approval, "a beautiful black stallion. He will buck! That's his spirit! He's a warrior! His spirit is his love for his people. He's hurting inside for the injustice to his people!"
Farrakhan condemned the Anti-Defamation League for fomenting this issue by reprinting Muhammad's comments in an ad in the New York Times on Jan. 16. But, in fact, a black civil rights leader had raised the issue eight days before.
Roger Wilkins wrote an essay in the Times on Jan. 8 in which he addressed the black students who had cheered Muhammad's speech.
"It is not weakness to control your justifiable rage, to resist scapegoating, to deal with people as individuals and to use humane values to advance our cause," Wilkins wrote. "On the contrary, it is weak to be vile and stupid and anti-Semitic and homophobic and racist."
And while black leaders have condemned the racism and anti-Semitism of Muhammad, few have been willing to condemn Farrakhan's racism and anti-Semitism.
Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Md., the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was asked twice on Tuesday whether he believed Louis Farrakhan was an anti-Semite.
"I believe there have been things that have been said over the years by the Nation of Islam that, without clarity, have been, by many people, including myself, questioned as to whether or not they were anti-Semitic in nature either by happenstance or deliberately," Mfume replied.
No matter which side of this issue you take, that fog-bound reply hardly qualifies Mfume for inclusion in the next edition of "Profiles in Courage."
Compare it, however, to one person who did have the courage to speak out and without equivocation.
Rep. Major Owens, D-N.Y., an African-American whose district has the highest percentage of blacks in America, said Tuesday:
"No more time should be wasted on negotiations with hatemongers and rank opportunists. Reject Muhammad and Farrakhan. . . . We must denounce the enemy. We must isolate the enemy. We must ignore any future devious overtures from the enemy."
Owens also denounced the reason that Mfume had given for forging a "sacred covenant" with Farrakhan.
"A strong desire within the black community for total unity is being exploited by a frustrated, misguided and unproductive fringe crowd," Owens said. "Unusually strong and loud in its lunacy, this unrepresentative small percentage of the black population commands media attention far out of proportion to its numbers and/or its capacity to deliver results.
"There is a dangerous divisive poison in the political atmosphere currently manifested in the form of anti-Semitic attacks on Jews by an African-American hatemongering fringe group. The only potent antidote to this poison is to amputate the fringe limb and focus more intensely on the healthy body that remains."
Owens offers a solution. He wants to build a coalition of people who do not wish to wallow in the acid bath of old hatreds, but who want to move forward together.
"The nucleus at the core of this coalition," Owens said, "is the long-standing alliance between African-Americans and Jews."
This did not make headlines. It did not get the attention that Louis Farrakhan got.
But that does not matter.
The truth uttered in quiet will outweigh, outdistance and outlast the loudest of lies.