'The Obama Chronicles,' Part 3: Barack Obama's Mentors

Published September 19, 2008

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This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," September 17, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In "The Obama Chronicles" segment tonight: the senator's mentors. There are three men who had significant influence on him.

The first is Frank Marshall Davis, an activist in Hawaii who died in 1987. Barack Obama met Davis when he was just 10 years old and sought his advice throughout his teen years.

The second man is Emil Jones, the president of the Illinois Senate. Jones, now 72, mentored Obama's legislative career. The Associated Press described Jones as Obama's political godfather.

And then there is the explosive Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose well-documented influence led Obama to attend the Trinity United Church.

Click here to watch Part 3 of "The Obama Chronicles."

Joining us now from Washington, David Freddoso, the author of the best-selling book, "The Case Against Barack Obama."

Now you're obviously not a Barack Obama supporter, but I did read your book, and it's very well-documented. You source what you say. But in this discussion, it's important not only what you say but how you know it. So let's start with Frank Marshall Davis. Who was he and what kind of an influence did he have on young Barack Obama?

DAVID FREDOSSO, AUTHOR, "THE CASE AGAINST BARACK OBAMA": Yes, Obama describes him in "Dreams From My Father" as a poet named Frank, doesn't give his full name, but from the description he gives, someone who attained fame with Langston Hughes at the time. It's very clear that he's referring to Frank Marshall Davis who was, according to one of his sympathetic biographers, a member of the Communist Party USA.

He had originally come to Hawaii many decades before Obama was born and was involved in an event that was written up in congressional testimony as an attempt to take over the NAACP by a small group of communists.

By the time he met with Obama, it was, of course, years later. He had become friends with Obama's grandfather, and a couple of times in his life, Obama looked to him as a father figure and a mentor and went to him for advice.

One of them was the well-documented event from "Dreams From My Father" where his grandmother had been frightened by a black panhandler. He went to talk with Frank Marshall Davis about this. And Davis, as he recounts — as Obama, in his book — told him, gave him a long string of advice in which he said you can never quite fully trust white people. They cannot quite know what you are all about.

And at another point in the book, as Obama is going off to college, Davis gives him the advice not to become a race-traitor when he goes to college. And of course, not to say that Obama has become the sort of politician who's constantly playing the race card, but perhaps you can see the influence coming through just slightly when he's injected race into the campaign so far, talking about how he doesn't look like the presidents on the dollar bills. At another point saying, "Oh, by the way, he's black." Saying that Republicans are going to attack him on the race issue, which hasn't really happened. I think Obama has really been the only one to talk about race.

O'REILLY: All right. So now we go to Illinois and he — Barack Obama is running for the state Senate. He wins. And Emil Jones is the big kahuna down in Springfield, Illinois, all right?

FREDDOSO: Right.

O'REILLY: So how does Jones help Obama?

FREDDOSO: Jones helped Obama — of course, the relationship between the two, according to "Dreams From My Father," goes back even farther. They had run into each other when Obama was a community organizer. But Jones was able to help Obama become a senator. The way he put it himself in The New York Times was that Obama was a smart enough guy, but he needed somebody to give him credibility. And that's what Jones was able to give him. He was the Senate Democratic leader when Obama started and became the Senate president when Democrats took over the Illinois Senate in 2003. He made Obama the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, which put him in charge of issues affecting the Service Employees International Union, which had over 110,000 members in Illinois at the time, and that helped Obama to win the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in 2004.

O'REILLY: All right. So he basically — he basically handed Barack Obama, and I mean handed him, a tremendous amount of power for a young state senator.

FREDDOSO: He also gave him — right, he gave him popular bills that, in many cases, Obama hadn't written, but he gave them to Obama to carry on the floor. The great example was the 1998 ethics bill that Obama — I think often exaggerates his role in — but that was a bill that Jones designed specifically.

O'REILLY: OK. So Jones put him front and center, allowed Barack Obama to build up his credibility and resume...

FREDDOSO: Yes.

O'REILLY: ... in front of the people of Illinois, and then he gets his U.S. Senate seat.

OK. And then we go to the most controversial one, Reverend Wright. Now I talked to Barack Obama about this, and he said, "Look, this guy was a friend of the family. And he baptized my children, he married us. But I never subscribed to his radical views. I didn't hear them when I was in the church. And I have since disassociated myself from him." And I believe Barack Obama. But I don't know what kind of an influence Wright had on Obama's life.

FREDDOSO: I was actually surprised, Bill. When I watched your interview with Obama, he said that Wright really hadn't been his spiritual mentor, has kind of downplayed that. That's interesting because back in 2004, the Chicago Sun-Times did a story on Obama's spirituality in which they interviewed Obama at length and cited one of his — and they call him a close confidant and Reverend Wright. And they mentioned Father Pfleger in the same vein as someone who was part of his moral compass. But Wright appears to have been a great influence in his life. I believe that it was in the Rolling Stone that Jim Wallace, known as a figure on the religious left, said that if you want to know Barack Obama, you have to know Reverend Wright. So the two, I think, were a little bit closer than he was making out in that.

O'REILLY: I only have 20 seconds left. If you had to say one thing that Barack Obama does now that was influenced by Wright, it would be?

FREDDOSO: Well, it would probably be his — I guess I would just say his Christian faith.

O'REILLY: OK. Mr. Freddoso, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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