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. 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’s candidacy has attracted national attention given Ellison’s identification of himself as a Muslim. Of greater interest to many, however, is Ellison’s past participation in the Nation of Islam. Ellison has only acknowledged “ties” to the Nation of Islam for eighteen months in the mid-1990s. 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 has refused to come clean on his long-standing connection to the Nation of Islam; his use of the word “ties” to limit his involvement with the Nation of Islam to an eighteen-month period is at best misleading. Yet with the exception of Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten in her column yesterday, the Minnesota media have given Ellison a pass, declining to pursue the easily available evidence that contradicts his statements. Minnesota Democrats have likewise shown no inclination to compel Ellison to account for the true extent of his involvement with the Nation of Islam.
Ellison wrote in defense of Louis Farrakhan as far back as the fall of 1989, when he was a third year law student at the University of Minnesota. As I reported in “Who is Keith Ellison? (2),” Ellison himself was the purveyor of the Nation of Islam’s “more negative messages” 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 appears to have been a purveyor of the Nation of Islam party line in every public utterance touching on related issues through the time of his initial candidacy for the Minnesota legislature in 1998.
In the winter of 1990, Ellison was an officer of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) at the University of Minnesota Law School. BLSA served as the co-sponsor of a speech by Kwame Ture (former Black Panther “prime minister” Stokely Carmichael) to be delivered in the law school on February 2, 1990.
Ture had recently returned to the United States from a long exile in Africa. As David Horowitz recalled at the time of Ture’s death, upon his return to the United States Ture had taken to lecturing “as a racial hate-monger, attacking Jews, whites, and America to approving audiences on American university campuses. In the end he found a fitting refuge in the racial sewer of the Nation of Islam, as a protégé of its Jew-baiting, America-hating, racist leader Louis Farrakhan.”
The title of Ture’s forthcoming talk at the University of Minnesota Law School was “Zionism: White Supremacy, Imperialism or Both?” Ture was one of a succession of anti-Semitic speakers, including Steve Cokely and Farrakhan himself, who had been brought to campus by the Africana Student Cultural Center.
Members of the Jewish law student caucus met with Ellison and Garmez Parks, also of BLSA, imploring them not to add insult to injury by bringing Ture to speak on campus or, at the least, not to co-sponsor his lecture. I am told that Ellison was the principal BLSA spokesman at the meeting and that he showed no interest in addressing the substance of the concerns of the Jewish law student caucus members who met with him. He deflected criticism of Ture’s appearance by reference to free speech. Ture’s lecture took place as scheduled in Room 25 of the law school (the law school’s large lecture room) with BLSA’s co-sponsorship. About 300 students attended.
As had been anticipated by the Jewish law student caucus, Ture’s lecture was grievously offensive. “Zionism must be destroyed,” Ture said in his lecture, though he distinguished Judaism from Zionism. Ture further instructed the audience in the vile lie that “the Nazis joined with the Zionists in murdering Jews, in order to encourage Jews to flee to Palestine.”
Ellison’s lack of candor regarding his long involvement with the Nation of Islam and with racialist ideology raises a question preeminently for Minnesota Democrats. Are they content to have this man represent their party while failing to address the most basic facts regarding his public record of support for the Nation of Islam and its ideology of hate?