Who is Keith Ellison?

Keith Ellison is the DFL (Democratic)-endorsed candidate to succeed 14-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Martin Sabo in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District. Ellison is a current state representative; he was endorsed at the Fifth District DFL convention on May 6. Star Tribune columnist Doug Grow provides some of the flavor of the convention in his column covering the festivities.

The Fifth District includes the city of Minneapolis and is thought to be one of the safest Democratic seats in the country. If so, the DFL endorsement is tantamount to election. However, Ellison’s endorsement by the Fifth District convention on May 6 will be contested in a September primary by candidates including former state DFL chairman Mike Erlandson, former DFL state Sen. Ember Reichgott Junge and others. I should think that Ellison must be considered the favorite to emerge as the winner of the primary and proceed to the election in November, where he would face Republican Alan Fine and a Green Party candidate.

Ellison is a Muslim, and his candidacy has attracted some national attention on that basis. If elected, Ellison would apparently be the first Muslim member of Congress. Also of interest, however, is Ellison’s past connections to the Nation of Islam (NoI).

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has treated Ellison’s connections to the NoI with minimal interest. See Rochelle Olson’s May 15 “DFL endorsee for Sabo’s seat, Rep. Ellison, faces tough scrutiny” (though not from Olson) and today’s “Ellison’s letter addresses his past ties.”

Ellison apparently asserts that he became a Muslim as a student at Wayne State University. In her story today, Rochelle Olson vaguely alludes to his “ties to the Nation of Islam for about 18 months in the mid-1990s,” ties that, according to him, were insufficient to apprise him of the NoI’s anti-Semitism before some unspecified time. Ellison’s apparent repudiation of the NoI’s anti-Semitism is the subject of a letter quoted briefly in Olson’s story today.

Was Ellison a member of the Nation of Islam? And if so, over what period of time? The Star Tribune shows no interest in these questions or in investigating Ellison’s story line. At Minnesota Democrats Exposed, Michael Brodkorb has posted two 1990 Minnesota Daily columns by “Keith Hakim.” The Minnesota Daily columns identify Hakim as a third-year law student. Brodkorb has identified Hakim as Ellison.

In one of the two columns, Hakim refers to “Minister Louis Farrakhan,” defends NoI spokesman Khalid Abdul Muhammad, speaks in the voice of a NoI advocate, denies that blacks can be racist and refers to the Constitution of the United States as the whites’ Constitution (“their Constitution”). In the other of the two columns, Hakim demands reparations for slavery and throws in a demand for an optional separate homeland for American blacks. The columns show Hakim to be the exponent of a vile racist ideology.

Before Keith Ellison’s past views and associations are excused, can we get them straight? Was Ellison “Keith Hakim”? Was he a member of the Nation of Islam? What were his associations with the group? Over what period of time? Has he terminated these associations? If so, when? I should think that these questions would be of great interest to Fifth District voters specifically and to Democrats generally.

One final question: Are these questions of no interest to Minnesota’s newspaper of record?

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