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              U.S. first lady Michelle Obama speaks during a luncheon at The Studio Museum of Harlem Tuesday Sept. 24, 2013 in New York. The first lady hosted the event for spouses of chiefs of state and heads of government participating in the UN General Assembly. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

Michelle Obama and CGI Federal executive belonged to student group at Princeton that hosted pro-terrorist speaker

Photo of Patrick Howley
Patrick Howley
Political Reporter

First Lady Michelle Obama and her Princeton classmate whose company received the no-bid government contract to build the HealthCare.gov Obamacare website were both members of a black student organization that caused a tense scene on campus by inviting a PLO leader who advocated for terrorism.

Michelle Obama ’85 and her classmate Toni Townes-Whitley ’85, a senior vice president at CGI Federal, were both students at the university when their groups the Organization of Black Unity (OBU) and the Third World Center (TWC) engaged in a confrontation with Jewish students on campus.

Michelle Obama was a member of both the OBU and TWC during her time at Princeton (1981-85). Townes-Whitley also belonged to OBU and TWC.

“It was an ugly scene, but few expected perfect harmony when the OBU, in conjunction with the Third World Center (TWC), invited Hassan Rahman, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s deputy UN observer, to appear on campus,” according to a January 25, 1982 Princeton Alumni Weekly (Volume 82) article entitled “War of Words” in the column “On the Campus” by Ted Lempert ’83.

Rahman “reiterated the PLO’s position that the Palestinians deserve a homeland and that they are entitled to use terrorism to achieve their goal, just as American revolutionaries did against the British.”

“We have the right to kill them if they are traitors and negotiate with the Israelis,” Rahman said of non-PLO supporting Palestinians at the event.

“The OBU met with Jewish students to discuss the event, and Hillel leaders affirmed Rahman’s right to speak on campus… As about 400 students poured into McCosh 50, tension replaced this short-lived calm. The entire center section of the auditorium had been reserved for TWC members, most of whom are black. The remainder of the audience, mostly Jews, filled the outer sections. OBU’s Murphy stepped to the microphone, but instead of giving a standard welcome and introduction, he noted the ‘subdued controversy’ surrounding the speech and noted that disruptions ‘would not be tolerated.’ He even mentioned the possibility of disciplinary action or prosecution. Patrolling the room were a dozen OBU members wearing security badges, a supplement to the university proctors manning the doorways. Before Rahman had said a word, hopes of a congenial atmosphere were dashed.”

“For the question-and-answer session, OBU monitors took down the names of those wishing to ask questions. No questions could exceed one minute, and follow-up questions were not allowed. Because of time restraints, only the first person on each list was recognized.