Who is Keith Ellison? (10)

Keith Ellison is the DFL-endorsed Fifth District (essentially Minneapolis) congressional candidate. The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s lame coverage of the question “Who is Keith Ellison?” is therefore particularly disappointing. In “Who is Keith Ellison? (2)” I wrote about Rochelle Olson’s June 3 Star Tribune story on Ellison’s letter to the Jewish Community Relations Council regarding his ties to the Nation of Islam. In that post, based on easily available information in the public record, I demonstrated the falsity of Ellison’s description of the limited nature of his ties to the Nation of Islam.

Bad as the Star Tribune’s coverage is, even worse is the deliberate blackout of information that belies Ellison’s line. We have obtained and received permission to publish Jeff Goldenberg’s (unpublished) June 5 letter to the editor of the Star Tribune:

Keith Ellison’s letter to Stephen Silberfarb, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) allegedly addresses his past ties to the racist, anti-Semitic Nation of Islam and other questionable associations Mr. Ellison has made during his adulthood (Star Tribune June 3, 2006). However, the heart of Mr. Ellison’s letter, at least as it pertains to the Nation of Islam is somewhere between disingenuous and utterly dishonest.

Eleven years ago Mr. Silberfarb’s predecessor at the JCRC called me when former Nation of Islam spokesman Elijah Muhammed was invited to speak at the University of Minnesota. The JCRC was alarmed and concerned that the Nation of Islam, with its consistent history of bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism and hatred was provided such a prominent stage from which to spread its message.

Due in part to my involvement in the African-American community, I was asked to attend this meeting, make notes of what I heard and saw and report my findings back to the Executive Director. I accepted the assignment. It is a matter of public record that Mr. Ellison was a leading local participant in that meeting.

In the heart of his letter to Mr. Silberfarb, Mr. Ellison states “I did not adequately scrutinize the positions and statements of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan and Khalid Muhammed. I wrongly dismissed concerns that they were anti-Semitic.”

Let me explain a bit about the meeting where Mr. Ellison stood with former Nation of Islam spokesman Khalid Muhammed. After he was introduced, Mr. Muhammed let loose with a vitriolic rant attacking gays, Jews, whites and others. But that was just the warm-up.

Next, Mr. Muhammed intentionally embarrassed, intimidated and personally attacked members of the audience in the University of Minnesota lecture hall that evening.

First he came after me. Out of a crowd of perhaps a couple of hundred, I was among a small handful of Caucasian attendees. “Hey, cracker taking notes there, what’s your name?” Mr. Muhammed demanded as he pointed his finger at me where I sat in the middle of the hall. “What’s a cracker doing here taking notes?” I smiled to mask my fear, turned beet red and said nothing as Mr. Muhammed continued to aim his racial intimidation tactics at me for another minute or so.

Then things really turned ugly. Towards the front of the hall sat an African American man and a Caucasian woman. Mr. Muhammed turned his attack on them. Upon confirming they were boyfriend and girlfriend, he attacked the man for having a white girlfriend. He attacked the man for bringing his white girlfriend to this public event. He asked personal and inappropriate rhetorical questions about why this African American man would choose a white girlfriend. He brought the young woman to tears in front of hundreds of people. Mr. Muhammed relentlessly attacked, embarrassed and intimidated this innocent pair because they were a bi-racial couple.

From his place by Mr. Muhammed’s side in 1995 what exactly was there for Mr. Ellison to scrutinize? With the racism, hatred and anti-Semitism of the Nation of Islam laid bare for him that day, Mr. Ellison turned a blind eye in pursuit of his own personal objectives. Now he attempts to paper over his ugly past apparently for the same reason.

Jeffrey H. Goldenberg

If any knowledgeable person can explain why the Star Tribune did not find Goldenberg’s highly illuminating letter fit to print, I would be most grateful for the information.

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