Muhammad Ali, who died yesterday at the age of 74, was famous for refusing to serve in Vietnam and for a very public conversion to Islam. Near the end of his life, he denounced Donald Trump for proposing to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.
But in 1983, he paid a visit to the Reagan White House, and posed for one of those goofy pictures with celebrities the Gipper was so fond of:
Muhammad Ali visited the White House on January 24, 1983, presenting President Reagan with an autographed Muslim Prayer Book, of which President Reagan mentions in his handwritten diaries.Omigod! Maybe Ronald Reagan was a secret Muslim! (Wingers, that's what you'd say if Ali had given a Muslim prayer book to President Obama, right?)
The President later noted in his diaries that Muhammad Ali endorsed him for President during his 1984 re-election campaign.That's true -- Ali endorsed Reagan in October 1984:
Muhammad Ali, the former heavyweight boxing champion, who endorsed the Rev. Jesse Jackson's unsuccessful run for the White House, has announced he is switching to President Reagan....Ali, along with fellow boxers Joe Frazier and Floyd Patterson, appeared in a pro-Reagan billboard in the fall of 1984:
Asked to elaborate on his endorsement of Mr. Reagan, Mr. Ali told reporters, "He's keeping God in schools and that's enough."
Ali later received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush, who, at the awards ceremony, spoke of Ali's "beautiful soul." (Maybe Bush is a secret Muslim, too!)
Jack Cashill -- the guy who thinks Bill Ayers wrote Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father -- once wrote a book about Ali, and later published a World Net Daily column in which he described the young Ali as a "mind-numbed Nation of Islam zombie." When Ali grew older, however, the scales fell from his eyes, according to Cashill, as he embraced Republicanism.
Now I see that Donald Trump is among the people praising Ali in death:
Muhammad Ali is dead at 74! A truly great champion and a wonderful guy. He will be missed by all!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2016
I expect that at least one or two idiots in the punditocracy will say that this reveals a softening in Trump's attitude toward blacks and Muslims. (It doesn't -- it's just a wannabe macho man seeking reflected glory from a boxing champ.) But based on a statement Ali put out back in December, it doesn't appear that the admiration was mutual:
... Muhammad Ali took jabs Wednesday at "so called Islamic Jihadists" and those who would "use Islam to advance their own personal agenda."I guess at the end Ali wasn't much of a Republican after all. Sorry, Frank Cashill.
... But the real target of Ali's roundhouse was Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The statement never mentions Trump by name -- but its headline is "Presidential Candidates Proposing to Ban Muslim Immigration to the United States."
... Here's the champ's full statement:
I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.
We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.
Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people's views on what Islam really is.