Rep. Keith Ellison's past ties to the Nation of Islam are resurfacing as he campaigns for DNC chair.
A spokesperson for Ellison told CNN that Ellison "rejects all forms of anti-Semitism."
Rep. Keith Ellison’s past ties to the Nation of Islam and his defense of its anti-Semitic leader, Louis Farrakhan, are resurfacing as he campaigns to lead the Democratic National Committee.
Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, publicly renounced his association with the Nation of Islam in 2006 after it became an issue during his run for Congress, when local Republican bloggers began publishing his old law school columns and photos connecting him to the organization.
“I have long since distanced myself from and rejected the Nation of Islam due to its propagation of bigoted and anti-Semitic ideas and statements, as well as other issues,” Ellison wrote at the time.
But several outlets have resurfaced Ellison’s past writings as he runs for DNC chair, raising new concerns about his own views and what they would mean for the Democratic Party if he were to be its leader. A CNN KFile review of Ellison’s past writings and public statements during the late 1980s through the 1990s reveal his decade-long involvement in the Nation of Islam and his repeated defense of Farrakhan and other radical black leaders against accusations of anti-Semitism in columns and statements to the press. None of the records reviewed found examples of Ellison making any anti-Semitic comments himself.
In one scathing column from 1990 unearthed by CNN’s KFile, Ellison accused the university’s president of chilling the free expression of black students by openly criticizing a controversial speaker invited to speak on campus by the Africana Student Cultural Center. That speaker, Kwame Ture (also known as Stokely Carmichael), had publicly claimed that Zionists had collaborated with the Nazis in World War II and has been quoted as saying “Zionism must be destroyed.”
University of Minnesota President Nils Hasselmo said he “personally found the statements in Ture’s speech concerning alleged Zionist collaboration with the Nazis deeply offensive.” Ellison, writing under the name “Keith E. Hakim” for the Minnesota Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Minnesota where Ellison attended law school, argued that Hasselmo “denounced Ture’s comment without offering any factual refutation of it,” and defended Ture’s right to speak on campus and to question Zionism.
Ellison wrote, “Concerning Zionism and Ture’s speech, the ASCC’s position is simply this: Whether one supports or opposes the establishment of Israel in Palestine and Israel’s present policies, Zionism, the ideological undergirding of Israel, is a debatable political philosophy. Anyone, including black people, has the right to hear and voice alternative views on the subject — notwithstanding our nominal citizenship.”
He added, “Alternatively, the University’s position appears to be this: Political Zionism is off-limits no matter what dubious circumstances Israel was founded under; no matter what the Zionists do to the Palestinians; and no matter what wicked regimes Israel allies itself with — like South Africa. This position is untenable.”