Ellison speaks…a little

In his Wall Street Journal column this past Friday, Jeryl Bier reported that Minnesota Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison and Nation of Islam Supreme Leader Louis Farrakhan had a reunion of sorts in September 2013:

The occasion was a visit by Iran’s newly elected President Hassan Rouhani to the United Nations. Mr. Rouhani invited Muslim leaders from around the U.S. to dinner after addressing the U.N. General Assembly. Contemporaneous news reports placed Mr. Farrakhan at the dinner. Unreported by mainstream outlets was the presence of Mr. Ellison, along with Reps. Gregory Meeks of New York and Andre Carson of Indiana. (All three are Democrats; Messrs. Ellison and Carson are Muslim.)

The Nation of Islam website documents the event, noting that Mr. Rouhani “hosted the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, Muslim leaders from different Islamic communities and members of the U.S. Congress at a private meeting . . . at the One UN Hotel in Manhattan Sept. 24, 2013 across the street from the UN headquarters.” The Final Call, a Nation of Islam publication, added that “ Keith Ellison of Minnesota . . . participated in the dialogue” after dinner and includes photos of Messrs. Farrakhan and Ellison at the tables. The Michigan-based Islamic House of Wisdom also reported on the meeting, with additional photos.

According to Mr. Farrakhan, the 2013 meeting was not the last time he and Mr. Ellison were together. After Mr. Ellison renewed his denunciation of Mr. Farrakhan in 2016, Mr. Farrakhan stated in an interview that Reps. Ellison and Carson had visited him in his Washington hotel suite the preceding summer.

For some reason, no one wanted to talk with Bier about it: “The press secretaries for Messrs. Ellison, Carson and Schumer did not answer emails seeking comment. Mr. Meeks’s press secretary said his boss had no response.”

Star Tribune political reporter Patrick Coolican followed up on Bier’s column and succeeded in extracting a statement from Ellison. In his Star Tribune Hot Dish email newsletter this morning, Coolican provides this statement attributed by an Ellison spokesman to Ellison himself (as Coolican puts it):

As part of the 2013 U.N. General Assembly, and as negotiations were under way for what would become the Iran deal, I attended a meeting with President Rouhani and nearly 50 American Muslim leaders. This was not a private dinner, I didn’t know in advance who else would be there, and my decision to attend was not an endorsement of the political views of other attendees. I attended the meeting to advocate for a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue and to press President Rouhani face-to-face for the release of former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, who was illegally detained and tortured by the Iranian regime. As always, I disavow anti-Semitism and bigotry in all of its forms.

Well, I guess it depends on the meaning of “private.” The dinner wasn’t open to the public. Ellison’s response otherwise confirms Bier’s account, though with apologetics and under a pretense of disputation that it must have taken a few days to concoct.

What about Ellison’s subsequent meeting with Farrakhan in his Washington hotel suite? The cat has Ellison’s tongue again on that one. Coolican notes: “I followed up with a question to Ellison aide Karthik Ganapathy about this claim last night, but heard nothing back.”

Here Coolican himself inserts the apologetics: “Bear in mind, during the interview in which Farrakhan says he met with Ellison, he also makes a ludicrous assertion about ‘Jewish control of politics, economics, Hollywood, music, media.’ Farrakhan’s credibility is less than sound.” But Ellison’s silence weighs on behalf of Farrakhan’s statement regarding the meeting with Ellison, though perhaps with a little more time he’ll come up with something.

As for credibility, Ellison has nothing on Farrakhan. Absolutely nothing.

This is the point of my Star Tribune column “Ellison remembers to forget” and the other pieces I collected in “An Ellison-Farrakhan reunion.” Today Ellison denies he was ever a member of the Nation of Islam. Back in 1998, however, Ellison first ran for office under the name Keith Ellison-Muhammad — a self-identified member of the Nation of Islam (see below, click to enlarge).

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