Pete Seeger, the folk singer and unrepentant communist who died Tuesday at age 94, is being celebrated by President Barack Obama as a civil rights hero who tried to “move this country closer to the America he knew we could be.”
“Over the years, Pete used his voice — and his hammer — to strike blows for worker’s rights and civil rights; world peace and environmental conservation,” said Obama in a statement released Tuesday. “And he always invited us to sing along. For reminding us where we come from and showing us where we need to go, we will always be grateful to Pete Seeger.”
Obama’s statement makes no mention of the fact that Seeger once argued that America shouldn’t go to war with Nazi Germany because it was allied with the Soviet Union at the time.
It also fails to note that Seeger visited North Vietnam in 1972 and, in the words of historian Ron Radosh, “came away ecstatic about the beautiful country and the peace-loving people there.”
Nor does it explain that Seeger remained a steadfast supporter of Joseph Stalin for most of his life, assisted the fellow-traveling fiasco that was Henry Wallace’s 1948 campaign for president, and opposed military action against the Taliban after 9/11.
While Seeger’s artistry and contributions to American music are beyond dispute, his political legacy, which included decades of advocacy of behalf of murderous dictators, is ignored by Obama’s statement.
“Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Pete’s family and all those who loved him,” concludes the statement that, at 120 words, is longer and more effusive than Obama’s statement on the passing of Margaret Thatcher.