Michelle Obama and HealthCare.gov-linked classmate had radical history at Princeton

Charles C. Johnson | Contributor

Toni McCall Townes-Whitley, the former Princeton classmate of Michelle Obama whose company won the no-bid contract to build the HealthCare.gov website, was a student radical whose efforts included bringing a famous black communist to campus.

According to the archives of the student newspaper, Toni McCall Townes-Whitley, Princeton ’85, was chairwoman of the Organization of Black Unity and was the black representative for the Third World Center (TWC) alongside the future first lady. (Related: Michelle Obama and CGI Federal executive belonged to student group at Princeton that hosted pro-terrorist speaker)

Townes-Whitley, née McCall, was a well known black activist at Princeton at the time. She authored a college thesis titled “The Question of Diversity,” calling for more racial quotas. She wrote for a radical newspaper, “La Lutta Continua” (“The Struggle Continues”) and organized a forum “On Being Black.”

“It’s important to have black role models in the colleges; because of CURL [a plan to integrate students racially in housing] there will be a decrease in the amount of upperclass members who are minorities,” McCall said to the Daily Princetonian in 1983, arguing that a plan that sought to house black and white freshmen without regard to race was unsatisfactory.

McCall also brought Manning Marable, who according to Cornel West was the most famous black Communist in America, to campus in November 1984, and favorably compared his activism with that of civil rights leaders.

Marable spoke to TWC’s annual Black Solidarity event where McCall introduced him. He encouraged the audience to vote for Reagan’s opponent Walter Mondale, who “[i]n the context of black solidarity” was both “a lesser evil” and “a choice against Reagan, Reaganism, and racism.”

At the event Marable also sided with the Marxist Nicaraguan dictatorship, encouraging black Americans to express solidarity with “the righteous movements of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the New Jewel Movement in Grenada, the guerrillas of El Salvador, and especially, our brothers and sisters in South Africa.”

In November 1984, TWC’s board demanded that non-white students should have the right to bar whites from meetings on campus. They also demanded minorities-only meetings with the deans.

The ban doesn’t seem to have been necessary as TWC already “ostracized” even black students it deemed to be too assimilated, according to comments in the student paper. But the TWC continued to press for it, arguing that blacks ought to be able to bar whites from attending events aimed at discussion of “sensitive” racial issues.

“The administration, by denying us these [blacks-only] meetings, is saying that we don’t have specific needs that have to be addressed this way,” David Jackson, ’87, a fellow TWC member, told the Daily Princetonian after university officials finally rejected the group’s proposal to hold racially limited meetings.

Despite the radical and racist character of TWC, both Michelle Obama and Toni Townes-Whitley were active participants.

“The Third World Center was our life,” Angela Acree, Obama’s best friend at Princeton, told The Boston Globe in June 2008. “We hung out there, we partied there, we studied there [in Liberation Hall].”

“Not a day went by that I did not see Michelle [Obama] at the Center,” Czerni Brasuelle, TWC’s director at the time, told the Daily Princetonian in its November 5, 2008 issue. Michelle Obama closed out her Princeton career with a senior thesis called “Princeton-Educated Blacks and The Black Community.”

Townes-Whitley’s connection to Michelle Obama came to light after the failure of the HealthCare.gov website, when The Daily Caller noted their joint activities as Princeton students. (Related: Michelle Obama’s Princeton classmate is executive at company that built Obamacare website)

While it is not clear how close Michelle Obama and Toni Townes-Whitley were or are, the First Couple received Townes-Whitley and her husband during a 2010 Christmas event, taking the time to pose for a White House photo that Townes-Whitley posted on her Facebook page. (Related: CGI Federal executive spent ‘Christmas with the Obamas’)

The Health and Human Services contract for the non-functioning Obamacare site isn’t CGI’s only deal with a federal agency. From the look of it, the company’s federal contracts have only gotten larger since Townes-Whitley joined as a vice president at CGI in 2010.

In 2010, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) awarded a $20 million contract to CGI. In 2011, the Department of Labor selected CGI to move it to the cloud. In 2012 and 2013, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, ($21 million) USAID (received part of a $900 million contract), and the EPA ($15 million) awarded multi-million-dollar contracts to CGI.

The Washington Post notes that the company has doubled its federal business over a year, to more than $8 billion in future orders, offering as an explanation that the company has “learned quickly” in the federal contracting game.

Efforts to reach out to CGI and Townes-Whitley were unsuccessful.

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