Wilson became president in January. Before that he worked for Obama as executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The debacle over baccalaureate is the second controversy that threatens to overshadow the prestige of the nation’s first black president delivering the commencement address at the nation’s only all-male historically black college. Earlier this week it was revealed that four Morehouse students have been accused in two separate incidents of rape.
Questions over the baccalaureate ceremony have swirled for weeks.
An Obama administration official said the White House does not coordinate with colleges about who they choose to speak at events with the president and referred questions to Morehouse.
Morehouse officials didn’t return phone calls or emails Friday seeking comment. Johnson also didn’t return a message left at his church.
Both are Morehouse graduates.
Some alumni demanded that Wilson honor his original invitation for Johnson to be the sole speaker. Some complaints came from Citizens for Change, a group of prominent Morehouse alumni.
“If President Wilson turns his back on one of our most distinguished alums because of an exercise of free speech and political commentary, he will have set Morehouse on a dangerous course and departed from the great tradition bequeathed to us,” said Amos Brown, a Morehouse graduate and senior pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco.
Wilson wrote that the three-speaker baccalaureate event is “in the best interest of the college.”
“This matter is not and has never been about censorship,” he said. “Nor has it anything to do with stifling or limiting ‘prophetic voices’ … or deviating from any of the proud traditions of the college.”