In 2008, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign was very nearly derailed when ABC News unearthed incendiary sermons by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, in which he shouted “God damn America” and made a series of radical assertions about the nation’s past sins. It was catnip for conservatives to exploit white anxiety about the future first black president, regardless of the fact that Obama disagreed with Wright’s worldview.
Now Keith Ellison, the Muslim congressman from Minnesota, is facing similar accusations of supposed ties to anti-Semitism—related to past associations he denounced years ago—as he bids to chair the Democratic National Committee.
CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski—whose work uncovering politicians’ past statements has been invaluable—is nevertheless out with a nothingburger on Ellison’s “past ties to the Nation of Islam and his defense of its anti-Semitic leader, Louis Farrakhan.” Sure, Kaczynski uncovers columns and press statements in which Ellison defends Farrakhan and other black radicals against charges of anti-Semitism, all of which deserve to be part of the public record. But these finds don’t fundamentally tell us anything new about Ellison, and they certainly shouldn’t give Democrats pause about his candidacy.
By Kaczynski’s own admission, all of the material comes from “the late 1980s through the 1990s.” And as he further notes, “None of the records reviewed found examples of Ellison making any anti-Semitic comments himself.”
On Medium Wednesday, Ellison again addressed Farrakhan and his own organizing for the 1995 Million Man March, which Farrakhan led:
I saw the Million Man March as a positive effort and I helped to organize a group from Minneapolis to attend. Like many young African-American men at the time, including President Obama, I hoped the March would promote change in our communities, and I was proud to be part of it. Civil rights leaders, ranging from Rosa Parks to Jesse Jackson, and artists like Stevie Wonder and Maya Angelou, supported and spoke at the event.
The congressman also reiterated how he “neglected to scrutinize the words of those like Khalid Muhammed and Farrakhan who ... organize by sowing hatred and division, including, anti-Semitism, homophobia and a chauvinistic model of manhood.”
“I disavowed them long ago, condemned their views, and apologized,” he wrote.
It’s all the explanation we need.