Who is Keith Ellison? (4)

In her Star Tribune column tomorrow, Katherine Kersten takes a look at the DFL-endorsed candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s Fifth District: “Let’s not forget Ellison’s support of Nation of Islam.” She writes:

State Rep. Keith Ellison of Minneapolis is the DFL-endorsed candidate for the Fifth District congressional seat. In this DFL bastion, that means that — barring a primary loss — Ellison will succeed Martin Sabo when Congress reconvenes next year.

Ellison’s background is, shall we say, unorthodox. He is a former outspoken supporter of Louis Farrakhan’s notorious Nation of Islam, a virulently anti-white, anti-Semitic organization once led by Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad.

Ellison apparently first came to public attention in 1989, when, using the name Keith E. Hakim, he defended Farrakhan in a Minnesota Daily article while a law student at the University of Minnesota. In a 1990 Daily column, Ellison claimed that splitting America into two nations, with five Southern states set aside for blacks, would be preferable to “liberal social programs.”

“Black-white interaction would be voluntary instead of compelled,” he wrote.

In 1995, Ellison helped organize Minnesota participation in the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., which the Nation of Islam convened. At a fundraiser for the event, he shared the stage with Khalid Abdul Muhammad, who described himself as Farrakhan’s “flamethrower.” In 1994, according to the Washington Post, Khalid had called Jews “the bloodsuckers of the black nation.”

Here in Minneapolis, at the event where Ellison shared the stage with him, Khalid delivered “racist ranting,” according to a Star Tribune article. “If words were swords,” said the article, “the chests of Jews, gays and whites would be pierced.”

During the 1990s, Ellison articulated extreme views on other occasions. In 1992, he spoke at a Minneapolis protest rally after a Los Angeles jury acquitted police of beating Rodney King. “Black people do not live under a democracy,” he told the crowd. “You don’t have an obligation to obey a government that considers you to be less than human.” In 1997, Ellison publicly supported Joanne Jackson, executive director of the Minneapolis Initiative Against Racism, after she allegedly stated that Jews were “among the most racist white people.”

In 1998, the Star Tribune described Ellison as “well-known in the black community as … a supporter of Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.” Ellison says he can’t recall seeing the article or seeking a correction. No correction was published.

Last week, Ellison moved to do damage control, as his background came under increasing scrutiny. He only had ties to the Nation of Islam for about 18 months in the mid-1990s, he told the Star Tribune. In a letter to the Jewish Community Relations Council, Ellison repudiated Farrakhan’s and Khalid Muhammad’s views, and rejected racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination. “This has always been my position,” he wrote.

Reached Wednesday, Ellison said he broke his ties with the Nation of Islam when “it became clear to me that their message of empowerment intertwined with more negative messages.”

Can people change? Of course they can. Ellison now says he is fit to serve all of the Fifth District’s citizens.

But Minnesotans are right to question his candor and judgment. Apparently, Ellison has not been fully candid about the duration of his support for the Nation of Islam. In fact, today he insists that he never shared the organization’s extremist views. The record raises questions about that.

Ellison says that he broke with the Nation of Islam when “it became clear to me that their message of empowerment intertwined with more negative messages.” Ellison himself was the purveyor of the Nation of Islam’s “more negative messages” from at least 1989, as demonstrated, among other things, by his 1997 statement to the board of the Minnesota Initiative Against Racism in defense of Joanne Jackson. Indeed, Ellison was a purveyor of the Nation of Islam party line in every public utterance touching on related issues. Will Ellison acknowledge the falsity of his alleged 18-month affiliation with the Nation of Islam? When did Ellison affiliate himself with the Nation of Islam? When did Ellison break with the Nation of Islam?

Keith Hakim, Keith X Ellison, Keith Ellison-Muhammad: Who is Keith Ellison?