Keith Ellison Downplays Links to Farrakhan, Condemns anti-Semitism

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Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee Keith Ellison
Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee Keith EllisonCredit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Keith Ellison, the deputy chairman of the American Democratic Party, said he has never had a relationship with Louis Farrakhan, the virulently anti-Semitic leader of the Afro-American movement “Nation of Islam”.

Ellison accused critics who are pressing him to explain his relationship to Farrakhan of trying to divide Jews and Blacks, while only alluding to his longtime association with “Nation of Islam”.

“I do not have and have never had a relationship with Mr. Farrakhan, but I have been in the same room as him,” Ellison wrote over the weekend on “Medium”, the blogging website.

“The right’s attempt to split the Jewish and Black communities is not going to work,” he said. “Now more than ever, when the right-wing is working to divide us by skin color, faith traditions and by our place of birth, human solidarity is critical to seeing us through this perilous time.”

Ellison, who was the first Muslim to be elected to Congress in 2006, said his encounters with Farrakhan have been sporadic.

“About a decade ago, he and I had a brief, chance encounter in Washington, D.C.,” Ellison said, in an apparent reference to a video that emerged recently of Farrakhan and Ellison in the same room at a mosque in the suburbs of Washington.

“In 2013, I attended a meeting in New York City with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and nearly 50 others where I advocated for the release of an American political prisoner,” he added, referring to a dinner held during the U.N. General Assembly in New York. “I didn’t know Mr. Farrakhan would be there and did not speak to him at the event.”

Ellison also insisted that reports of a meeting between himself and Farrakhan in a Washington hotel room in 2015 or 2016 are bogus.

“Contrary to recent reports, I have not been in any meeting with him since then,” he said, referring to the 2013 U.N. gathering, “and he and I have had no communication of any kind.”

To distance himself from Farrakhan, Ellison brought up a letter he wrote to Minnesota’s Jewish community in 2006 where he criticized the “Nation of Islam” and rejected anti-Semitism.

“In a speech just last month, he again attacked the Jewish people with intolerant and divisive language,” he said, referring to a recent Farrakhan speech.

The “Jewish Democratic Council of America” welcomed Ellison’s post on “Medium” as well as other statements from African-American lawmakers who were accused of ties with Farrakhan.

“Ellison’s statement leaves no ambiguity that he does not accept Farrakhan’s hateful and divisive preaching and we appreciate him reiterating this conviction. We also have been pleased to read similarly unsolicited statements from Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY) in recent weeks,” the organization said in a statement.

In the “Medium” article, Ellison conveniently only alludes to his decade long relationship with the “Nation of Islam”, which stretched to as late as 1998.

“If you are a Black man from my generation, you remember the march,” he said, referring to the 1995 Million Man March initiated by Farrakhan. “I helped organize the march in my local community in Minneapolis. And I marched in it, alongside civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks and Jesse Jackson,” he said.