Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) has tossed his hat into the ring to become the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Yet, there have been some rather disturbing remarks the congressman has made, with one anti-defamation group describing them as disqualifying. Regardless, Ellison is a progressive Democrat, who will get a healthy amount of support and could very well become the next DNC chair. Yet, he’s made controversial remarks about the 9/11 attacks, Israel, and his defense of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
Before the Thanksgiving holiday, The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman reported that the Obama White House was trying to find sensible alternatives to Ellison, or at least hope that someone more level-headed joins he race, with the Farrakhan issue fresh in their minds. They were also worried that Ellison winning the chairmanship “would amount to handing the party to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mrs. Clinton’s primary race opponent, and his liberal followers.” At the time, the publication had set aside some time for a phone interview with Martin and Haberman, but backed out when told that the Farrakhan issue would be brought up:
Mr. Ellison’s past criticism of Mr. Obama and praise for Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, worry some Democrats looking for a figure to lead the opposition to Mr. Trump.
Mr. Ellison, a Muslim, defended Mr. Farrakhan in the 1990s, saying he was “not an anti-Semite,” and has positioned himself on the left flank of congressional Democrats on Israel.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, called Mr. Ellison “an important ally in the fight against anti-Semitism” but said he had taken positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “on which we strongly differ and that concern us.”
“We hope that all candidates for this post will make clear where they stand on these issues, and that the Democratic National Committee will make a choice that affirms the longstanding bipartisan consensus on a strong U.S.-Israel relationship,” he said.
Aides to Mr. Ellison were going to make him available for a telephone interview, but then declined when informed that he would be asked about his past comments on Mr. Farrakhan.
So, that’s not a good sign. Scott Johnson wrote in The Weekly Standard in 2006, about Ellison’s ties to the Nation of Islam. At the time, Ellison was running for Congress and noted that his involvement with the NOI was only for 18 months, and that it was mostly around the Million Man March in 1995. Johnson, who is based in Minnesota, noted some problems with the timeline:
Ellison was born Catholic in Detroit. He states that he converted to Islam as an undergraduate at Wayne State University. As a third-year student at the University of Minnesota Law School in 1989-90, he wrote two columns for the Minnesota Daily under the name "Keith Hakim." In the first, Ellison refers to "Minister Louis Farrakhan," defends Nation of Islam spokesman Khalid Abdul Muhammad, and speaks in the voice of a Nation of Islam advocate. In the second, "Hakim" demands reparations for slavery and throws in a demand for an optional separate homeland for American blacks. In February 1990, Ellison participated in sponsoring Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) to speak at the law school on the subject "Zionism: Imperialism, White Supremacy or Both?" Jewish law students met personally with Ellison and appealed to him not to sponsor the speech at the law school; he rejected their appeal, and, as anticipated, Ture gave a notoriously anti-Semitic speech.
Ellison admits that he worked on behalf of the Nation of Islam in 1995. At a rally for the Million Man March held at the University of Minnesota, Ellison appeared onstage with Khalid Abdul Muhammad, who ran true to form: According to a contemporaneous Star Tribune article, "If words were swords, the chests of Jews, gays and whites would be pierced."
Even in 1995, Ellison's work on behalf of the Nation of Islam extended well beyond his promotion of the Million Man March. That year, he dutifully spouted the Farrakhan line when Qubilah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X, was indicted for conspiring to murder Farrakhan. Ellison organized a march on the U.S. attorney's office in Minneapolis demanding that Shabazz be released and alleging that the FBI itself had conspired to kill Farrakhan. In a November 6, 1995, column for the Minneapolis periodical Insight News, Ellison wrote under the name "Keith X Ellison." He condemned a Star Tribune editorial cartoon that was critical of Farrakhan as a role model for blacks because of his anti-Semitism. Ellison argued to the contrary.
There are also these controversial trips that have occurred during Ellison's time in Congress. In 2008, Ellison visited a radical Islamic cleric and the president of a bank who offered payments to families of suicide bombers while visiting Saudi Arabia (via Free Beacon):
Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.) during a 2008 trip to Saudi Arabia met with a radical Muslim cleric who endorsed killing U.S. soldiers and with the president of a bank used to pay the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
Ellison, now a leading candidate to head the Democratic National Committee, was brought to Saudi Arabia for a two-week trip by the Muslim American Society (MAS), a group founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood to act as its “overt arm” in the United States.
In July, Ellison said that told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman that the U.S. should oppose the occupation of what will become the Palestinian state:
In July, Ellison was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! after participating in the construction of the 2016 Democratic party platform at the behest of then-candidate Bernie Sanders. Ellison was asked about what was and was not accomplished in the platform, and one of the first things he brought up was that the Democrats "could have had a clearer statement on the two-state solution and the U.S.'s aspiration to have peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians."
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what you would like to see there, Congressmember Ellison?
REP. KEITH ELLISON: Well, I think that it is important that, you know, the United States state that we don't think that the occupation of the—what will be the Palestinian state should continue. I don't think there's any fear of using the O-word, if you will. I mean, Ariel Sharon used it. You know, the U.N. uses it. I mean, it's a commonly used phrase to describe what's going on. I think we could have also made some stronger statements about the—
AMY GOODMAN: What is that word?
REP. KEITH ELLISON: Occupation.
AMY GOODMAN: That they're not using the word "occupation"?
REP. KEITH ELLISON: Right.
Then comes the 2010 speech about Israel that prompted the Anti-Defamation League to say that his remarks were disqualifying:
In that speech, Ellison asked why “United States' foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people."
"A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million. Does that make sense? Is that logic? Right?" Ellison said at the time, according to reports cited by the League.
The League's statement deals a blow to Ellison's bid to lead the Democratic National Committee. So far, he has emerged as the frontrunner with a large slate of endorsements from across the political spectrum, including incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and populist darling and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Greenblatt's statement goes on to accuse Ellison, "whether intentional or not" of raising "the specter of age-old stereotypes about Jewish control of our government."
I’ll let you read more about Ellison and make up your own minds, but this appears to be a radical shift to the far left with Ellison. The fact that he bolted from the Times when they wanted to discuss his ties to Farrakhan and NOI is telling. At the same time, should Ellison become the next DNC chair, it would be an odd event as observers look for signs of change among the Democratic Party apparatus. Ellison would signal that, but with Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) taking the helm of fellow Democrats in the House and Senate respectively—we’ll be dealing with a structure in which the metropolitan elites, who cost Democrats this election, would lead Congress, but the party would be led by someone who should be wrecking the house and starting anew. Maybe Ellison might not be radical, just a legitimate face of the American Left holding a top party position to clean up the DNC after the tainted reigns of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Donna Brazile. I think that’s wishful thinking though. The GOP may have their issues regarding what to do with Obamacare, trade, and maybe childcare. Democrats have to deal with a gutted party, with a leadership that seems to be establishmentarian on the Hill, but feeling the Bern with those who fund the operation.
Ellison is getting support from the usual suspects, despite his controversial ties. The AFL-CIO decided to back him.
Free Beacon's Super Cut of Mr. Ellison: