In his Wall Street Journal column a week ago yesterday, Jeryl Bier reported that Minnesota Fifth District Rep./Democratic National Committee Vice Chairman Keith Ellison and Nation of Islam Supreme Leader Louis Farrakhan had a reunion of sorts in September 2013:
The occasion was a visit by Iran’s newly elected President Hassan Rouhani to the United Nations. Mr. Rouhani invited Muslim leaders from around the U.S. to dinner after addressing the U.N. General Assembly. Contemporaneous news reports placed Mr. Farrakhan at the dinner. Unreported by mainstream outlets was the presence of Mr. Ellison, along with Reps. Gregory Meeks of New York and Andre Carson of Indiana. (All three are Democrats; Messrs. Ellison and Carson are Muslim.)
The Nation of Islam website documents the event, noting that Mr. Rouhani “hosted the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, Muslim leaders from different Islamic communities and members of the U.S. Congress at a private meeting . . . at the One UN Hotel in Manhattan Sept. 24, 2013 across the street from the UN headquarters.” The Final Call, a Nation of Islam publication, added that “ Keith Ellison of Minnesota . . . participated in the dialogue” after dinner and includes photos of Messrs. Farrakhan and Ellison at the tables. The Michigan-based Islamic House of Wisdom also reported on the meeting, with additional photos.
According to Mr. Farrakhan, the 2013 meeting was not the last time he and Mr. Ellison were together. After Mr. Ellison renewed his denunciation of Mr. Farrakhan in 2016, Mr. Farrakhan stated in an interview that Reps. Ellison and Carson had visited him in his Washington hotel suite the preceding summer.
For some reason, no one wanted to talk with Bier about it: “The press secretaries for Messrs. Ellison, Carson and Schumer did not answer emails seeking comment. Mr. Meeks’s press secretary said his boss had no response.”
Star Tribune political reporter Patrick Coolican followed up on Bier’s column and succeeded in extracting a statement from Ellison. In his Star Tribune Hot Dish email newsletter earlier this week, Coolican quoted an Ellison spokesman who attributed this statement to to Ellison himself:
As part of the 2013 U.N. General Assembly, and as negotiations were under way for what would become the Iran deal, I attended a meeting with President Rouhani and nearly 50 American Muslim leaders. This was not a private dinner, I didn’t know in advance who else would be there, and my decision to attend was not an endorsement of the political views of other attendees. I attended the meeting to advocate for a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue and to press President Rouhani face-to-face for the release of former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, who was illegally detained and tortured by the Iranian regime. As always, I disavow anti-Semitism and bigotry in all of its forms.
I commented that it depends on the meaning of “private.” The dinner wasn’t open to the public. Ellison’s response otherwise confirmed Bier’s account, though with apologetics and under a pretense of disputation that it must have taken a few days to concoct. I should add that Ellison’s apologetics show his usual creativity.
What about Ellison’s subsequent meeting with Farrakhan in his Washington hotel suite? The cat had Ellison’s tongue on that one. Coolican noted: “I followed up with a question to Ellison aide Karthik Ganapathy about this claim last night, but heard nothing back.”
This all took place out of the view of Star Tribune readers who don’t subscribe to Coolican’s extremely useful daily email newsletter. The Star Tribune has occasionally shielded its readers from the jagged corners of Ellison’s career.
For public purposes, after ardent service to the Nation of Islam as a local agitator and self-identified member of the hate cult, Ellison has suppressed his past associations while denouncing Farrakhan and the Nation. Indeed, he promulgated three bald lies about his past with the Nation as he waged his 2006 campaign to succeed Rep. Martin Sabo in Congress.
Coolican returns to Bier’s story in today’s Star Tribune. Coolican’s account appears under the headline “Ellison again faces questions about Louis Farrakhan relationship.” Coolican also gives his account some context to suggest why it’s news. Indeed, it may come as a shock to some Star Tribune readers.
As for the second meeting with Farrakhan, in Farrakhan’s hotel room in Washington, I speculated that Ganapathy might come up with something to say after a few days. Coolican reports that Ganapathy has in fact released a statement, thought it is “a statement criticizing the media without addressing the meeting Farrakhan says happened in his hotel suite.” This is what Ganapathy has come up with in the fullness of time:
Rep. Ellison has advocated a pluralistic, peaceful and broadly prosperous vision for our nation’s future his entire career, and the idea that matters less than whether or not he was once upon a time standing near somebody is an insane symptom of how our country’s political media coverage is so broken. Rep. Ellison knows Minnesotans understand that standing in a room doesn’t mean you endorse every view of everyone else in that room, and wishes the space being used to print this story was instead spent calling more attention to the scourge of white nationalist gun violence, or the deportation threat facing hundreds of thousands of young immigrants across our country.
Ganapathy’s statement represents Ellison’s modus operandi. In September 2006, this is how Ellison responded to the Star Tribune story reporting Ellison’s fundraiser featuring Hamas supporter Nihad Awad:
The Republicans are in a tough position. Iraq is a failed policy. They haven’t done much for homeland security. We still have a health care crisis. The Earth is warming up, and they’re not doing anything about it. What else are they going to do? They have to try to engage in smear politics.
Coolican has performed a genuine service extracting the pathetic “white nationalist gun violence” variation of Ellison’s response to “smear politics” from Ellison’s spokesman this week.
For background on Ellison’s treatment of his relationship with Farrakhan, see my Star Tribune column “Ellison remembers to forget” and the other pieces I collected in “An Ellison-Farrakhan reunion.” Nowadays Ellison denies he was ever a member of the Nation of Islam. Back in 1998, however, Ellison first ran for office under the name Keith Ellison-Muhammad — a self-identified member of the Nation of Islam (see below, click to enlarge).