Who is Keith Ellison? (18)

In his Minneapolis Star Tribune column this morning, Nick Coleman argues, sort of, that “Some folks seem very worried about the possibility Keith Ellison could become the first black Muslim scofflaw elected to Congress.” The gist of Coleman’s column is that Ellison has been picked on because he is a Muslim, though Coleman briefly modifies his indictment at the outset:

Ellison’s problem is that he used to be associated with the Nation of Islam, an American religion led by a man named Louis Farrakhan, who would not know Ellison if he sat next to him on the No. 5 bus.

Somehow, Ellison finds himself condemned as a black American who was upset by the Rodney King verdict, spoke on behalf of accused criminals, and worked as an organizer for the Million Man March that called on black men to take responsibility for their families.

The assertion that Farrakhan wouldn’t know Ellison, if factual, is more than a bit beside the point. Ellison was a local spokesman and ringleader for Farrakhan. So what if Farrakhan wouldn’t know him if he sat next to him on the No. 5 bus? Ellison would know Farrakhan, and he would be able to tell Farrakhan of all the things he did on his behalf as one of his followers in Minneapolis. This is a defense that can’t be sustained, and Coleman quickly abandons it.

Coleman returns to the theme of his column, condemning “the blogs” and his own paper for their religious bigotry:

I have come to know that Ellison is a Muslim because I have read it countless times on the blogs and in the paper, which has made 16 mentions of Ellison and “Muslim” or “Islam” since he was endorsed to replace Muslim Marty.

Muslim Marty, it turns out, is a nice, safe Lutheran, one of 21 lutefisk lovers in the 109th Congress. There are 16 Mormons, 37 Jews, 52 Presbyterians, 62 Methodists, 75 Baptists, 154 Catholics and, worst of all, 211 lawyers. But no Muslims.

That reminds me. Did you know Keith Ellison is Muslim?

His religious affiliation was even mentioned in a front-page story about his habit of not paying parking tickets (he had his driver’s license suspended for ignoring them) and his spotty driving record.

Coleman’s reference to “Muslim Marty” is to Martin Sabo, the (Lutheran) retiring incumbent. Coverage of Ellison, according to Coleman (again, sort of), is a function of bigotry against Ellison because of his religion and perhaps a function of racism as well.

Unfortunately, insofar as the Star Tribune is concerned, the opposite is the case. It is precisely because of Ellison’s race and his religion that the Star Tribune has limited its coverage of Ellison’s background and failed to report the sickening blights on Ellison’s public record. It is precisely because the Star Tribune has more or less adopted Ellison’s own (false) line on his limited involvement with the Nation of Islam that Coleman can say that Ellison finds himself attacked because of his support for “the Million Man March that called on black men to take responsibility for their families.” It is precisely because the Star Tribune has failed to report Ellison’s flamboyant support for convicted cop-killers and local gangbangers that Coleman can say that Ellison finds himself attacked for speaking “on behalf of accused criminals.”

In short, Coleman to the contrary notwithstanding, Ellison has been the beneficiary of the Star Tribune’s double standard, not its victim. If Ellison were white and Christian, surely the Star Tribune would have reported: that Ellison’s involvement with the Nation of Islam extended far beyond the 18-month period in the mid-1990’s to which Ellison has admitted, that Ellison was in fact a local leader and spokesman of the Nation of Islam, that Ellison defended the “truth” of an attack on Minneapolis Jews as “the most racist white people,” that Ellison affiliated himself with convicted murderer and Vice Lords gang leader Sharif Willis until Willis was convicted and returned to prison for crimes involving “a senseless display of terrorist tactics” in 1995, that Ellison supported the Vice Lords gangbangers charged (and subsequently convicted) with the murder of Minneapolis police officer Jerry Haaf (“We don’t get no justice, you don’t get no peace”), that Ellison has attacked law enforcement authorities in outrageous terms, that Ellison has demanded that Symbionese Liberation Army terrorist Sara Jane Olson be freed, and that Ellison has expressed concern for the continuing freedom of convicted cop-killer Assata Shakur (on the lam in Havana and recently named to the FBI’s most-wanted domestic terrorist list).

Coleman concludes his column sarcastically asserting his own qualifications for the Fifth District congressional seat:

I have one great quality that will help my candidacy a lot:

I am not a Muslim.

Coleman is not a Muslim, but he is an ignorant left-wing hack with a column in the paper that dominates news coverage in Minnesota. In that capacity he has invaluably assisted Ellison’s candidacy by stigmatizing exposure of Ellison’s indefensible public record — a function the Star Tribune has yet to perform — as religious bigotry.


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