CHICAGO – Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan reiterated his defense of Moammar Gadhafi on Thursday, calling the embattled Libyan leader a friend and Muslim brother who's lent the movement $8 million over the years.
Farrakhan, speaking at a rare news conference, railed against the media and said Gadhafi isn't the monster being portrayed by Western governments.
The 78-year-old minister criticized the U.S. government and President Barack Obama — whom he also called a brother — for launching military action against Libya without justification. He accused Americans of just wanting Gadhafi out of the picture to secure oil interests.
"I love Moammar Gadhafi, and I love our president," Farrakhan told several hundred cheering supporters at the Nation of Islam's headquarters. "It grieves me to see my brother president set a policy that would remove this man not only from power, but from the earth."
Obama has defended America's military involvement in Libya, saying the U.S. has intervened to prevent a slaughter of civilians. He has ruled out targeting Gadhafi militarily, and the U.S. turned over control of the military operation to NATO on Thursday. Gadhafi, who has ruled Libya for decades, has been battling opposition forces.
Farrakhan portrayed Gadhafi as a fellow revolutionary and longtime friend to the Nation of Islam, which used $3 million it borrowed from Libya in the 1970s to acquire its opulent headquarters on Chicago's South Side. Years later, a $5 million loan was used to pay back taxes and costs for the home of the movement's former leader Elijah Muhammad.
Farrakhan has publicly defended Gadhafi at several recent events, including the Nation of Islam's annual Saviours' Day convention in February and at a civil rights convention last week. He said the U.S. government shouldn't be attacking Libya when it has stayed out of other conflicts around the world.
He called for a cease-fire on both sides in Libya and a chance for the Libyan people to vote on whether Gadhafi should stay in power. He dismissed allegations that Gadhafi has violently cracked down on his own people, saying the Libyan leader was "killing traitors."
"Do you really think that Brother Gadhafi really was going to slaughter 700,000 people?" Farrakhan said. "If that were true ... where are all the bodies?"
"I don't care what Gadhafi has done wrong, he is not the 'mad dog of the Middle East,'" he said, a reference to the label former President Ronald Reagan once gave Gadhafi.
Farrakhan said he originally called the news conference to warn the country about a huge earthquake that he's foreseen, cautioning that Americans "are worse prepared than the Japanese," who are trying to recover from a devastating earthquake and tsunami that touched off a nuclear crisis.