Keith Ellison represents Minnesota’s Fifth District in Congress. He proudly identifies himself first and foremost as the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. With a little help from Karen Hunter (as he notes in the Acknowledgements), he has now written the memoir cum manifesto My Country, ‘Tis of Thee: My Faith, My Family, Our Future. One of the interesting features of Ellison’s book is its refusal to state the position of any political opponent or commentator fairly. The positions of opponents are simply labeled, for example, as religious bigotry or as personal attacks. Enter our friend Katherine Kersten and, ahem, Power Line.
During the course of Ellison’s primary campaign for the DFL congressional nomination in 2006, I had written on Power Line about various pseudonyms under which he had emerged as a public figure in Minnesota: Keith Hakim, Keith X Ellison and Keith Ellison-Muhammad. He had first run for office as a self-identified member of the Nation of Islam in 1998 under the pseudonym Keith Ellison-Muhammad. Ellison’s only reference to this occurs in an incomprehensible quotation from Ellison’s Republican opponent in the general election, Alan (misspelled Allan) Fine. Ellison writes in chapter 10 (“All Colors, All Cultures, All Faiths”):
The last thing I associated Allan [sic] Fine with was meanness, but the day after the primary results, he came at me with both barrels blazing.
“Keith Muhammad, Keith X Ellison, Keith Hakim” is how he started his press conference. He didn’t link these words to anything. He appeared to be raising suspicion about my faith. His approach seemed connected to an overall Republican strategy because the onslaught was similar to attacks posted on conservative blogs such as Power Line and Minnesota Democrats Exposed. Katherine Kersten, the Star Tribune opinion writer [she was a Star Tribune metro columnist at the time doing the paper’s only serious reporting on Ellison], tried to tarnish me in the same way. She also tied me to the overall DFL ticket, including Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch, who was running for governor, and Amy Klobuchar, who was running for US Senate. Kersten ran me into the ground and then launched into a diatribe about how the DFL (which she hated) used to be the party the “Party of Humphrey,” but now it had descended and become the–dramatic pause, please–“Party of Ellison.”
Allan [sic] Fine said he wasn’t taking order from the RNC or the Minnesota Republicans, but it sure sounded like they were singing from the same hymnal.
This is Ellison’s only reference to his pseudonyms in the entire book. They are left unexplained, as though someone else — someone other than Ellison — had made them up and used them. It is an intentionally mystifying reference.
Ellison to the contrary notwithstanding, the Republican Party had nothing to do with my reporting about Ellison’s pseudonymous background on Power Line. I had been hearing from prominent local Democrats who were not pleased by the prospect that a former member and local leader of the Nation of Islam stood to become the face of the Democratic Party in Minneapolis. These Democrats were the primary sources of the information I had had been reporting on Power Line about Ellison’s background during the summer of 2006.
Ellison characterizes the information Katherine Kersten and I reported about his background as “attacks” unworthy of response, as though we got something wrong. Ellison has never charged either Kathy or me with an error. In the book he doesn’t say that we got anything wrong. And I should add that Fine sounded like he was “singing from the same hymnal” as we were because we had been writing “the hymnal” and Fine had been reading it!