Barring a cataclysmic event, Minnesotans today will elect the first-ever Muslim to the U.S. Congress, and odds are the media serenade won’t be far behind.
What remains to be seen, though, is how many journalists will be willing to strike a discordant note by questioning Keith Ellison on his Nation of Islam past or his open embrace of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group founded by two self-identified supporters of Islamic terrorism.
Defenders of the Democratic frontrunner thus far have dodged most legitimate questions, instead choosing to smear critics as Islamophobic bigots. The tactic has worked, enabling Ellison to win comfortably the September 12 Democratic primary—and soon the general election.
But no amount of obfuscation or misdirection changes some simple facts: Ellison had a much deeper involvement with the Nation of Islam than he’s acknowledged, and he has forged an extremely close alliance with CAIR. The organization’s officials, in fact, have helped raise over $50,000 for Ellison. These are obviously legitimate—and necessary—questions, but few in the mainstream media have the stomach to go against the tide. And with Ellison becoming the first-ever Muslim Congressman, the media “tide” isn’t hard to predict.
For the most part, Ellison hasn’t had to defend himself because most in the local media apparently don’t believe the candidate’s past and present affiliations warrant scrutiny. Or maybe they just don’t want to be labeled bigots for questioning a Muslim about connections to certain Muslims.
When Ellison was taking heat this summer—including from other Democrats—state Democrat-Farm-Labor Party Chairman Brian Melendez lashed out at critics: “There are people in this world who hear Muslim and think terrorist. They’re bigots who wouldn't vote for Ellison anyway.” Of course there are anti-Muslim bigots, but there’s no evidence suggesting that any of Ellison's public critics are.
The state DFL chairman not only sullied Ellison’s critics, but also almost certainly preempted others who might otherwise have asked uncomfortable questions.
When Ellison’s history with the Nation of Islam initially surfaced as an issue, the candidate wrote a letter of apology to the Jewish community. He could have used this forum to come clean and display genuine contrition. Ellison chose not to.
Ellison wrote in his letter that his involvement with the NOI was limited to 18 months and that he was never a member. Thus, he claimed that he didn’t realize until later the organization’s racism and anti-Semitism. But it appears he wasn’t honest about either the duration or the depth of his ties to the NOI.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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