The gang that couldn’t talk straight, part 2

Last month we wrote about the Star Tribune’s puff piece by Mitch Anderson on the pilgrimage of Minnesota Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison to Mecca for the Muslim hajj. The brief piece relied heavily on comments by Ellison spoksman Rick Jauert, who told Anderson “that Ellison paid for the journey himself.”

The Star Tribune devoted a second puff piece by Anderson to Ellison’s Hajj The rationale for another piece on the same subject was obscure. Apparently adding weight to Ellison’s greatness in the eyes of the Star Tribune, Anderson quoted Ellison: “This is just me trying to be the best person I can be.”

Anderson buried the sole item of journalistic interest at the end of the article. Anderson reported: “[Ellison’s] expenses were paid for by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota.” Despite the fact that it was Anderson himself who previously quoted Ellison’s spokesman asserting that the trip was on Ellison’s own nickel, Anderson dropped the subject there.

Last week FOX News posted a report by Joseph Abrams on Ellison’s hajj. Abrams reported that Ellison’s hajj was funded by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota — an organization at the heart of several local controversies. Abrams also reviewed the troubling history of the Muslim American Society. Consistent with Mitch Anderson’s second Star Tribune story on Ellison’s hajj, Abrams reported that Ellison’s office acknowledged it. However, word had not filtered up to the national director of the Muslim American Society:

Representatives for MAS-Minnesota did not return calls or e-mails requesting comment. But Mahdi Bray, the national director who campaigned for Ellison, denied his group had funded the congressman’s pilgrimage, calling the story a “myth” and “urban legend” that needed to be laid to rest.

“Keith Ellison is a member of Congress who knows that congressmen don’t take trips sponsored by nonprofits. That would be a breach of congressional ethics,” said Bray, executive director of the MAS Freedom Foundation.

But Ellison’s office told that MAS had indeed paid for the congressman’s hajj.

Last night Twin Cities reporters Eric Eskola and Kathy Wurzer treated Ellison to the kind of examination that has allowed him to prosper in Minnesota politics. On the Twin Cities public television program Almanac, Eskola and Wurzer asked Ellison about his hajj:

Eskola: We’ve got about a minute left. [crosstalk] You made a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Ellison: I sure did.

Eskola: And there was, as the first Muslim member of congress, and there was, I think Fox had a segment concerned about the support you received from the Muslim American Society of Minnesota. You want to comment about that?

Ellison: Well, it’s a…group of Minnesotans. I went to Haj with Minnesotans. Uh, people who have been involved in the civic life of our state and our city. There’s nothing wrong with it and, uh, you know, I mean. The reality is…I don’t think that was a meritorious story…. The trip was approved by [the] House Ethics Committee before it ever happened. So, it’s just kind of a non-story.

Wurzer: What was that like? Hajj…

Ellison: Oh boy. It was amazing. That’s really what I’d rather talk about, what was Hajj like….

The Minnesota media have made it remarkably easy for Ellison to confine his remarks to talking what he wants to talk about.

Via Peter Swanson.

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