Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.) on Sunday wrote an op-ed dismissing concerns about his previous praise for Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan, who has repeatedly used disparaging language to condemn white people and Jewish people.
Several House Democrats have come under fire in recent weeks for their association with Farrakhan, including Ellison, who recently earned a "Four Pinocchios" rating from the Washington Post fact checker concerning his interactions with the controversial Nation of Islam leader.
Ellison, the Democratic National Committee deputy chair, penned in his Medium op-ed that he worked with the Nation of Islam in 1995 to organize the Million Man March in Minnesota, but that he soon distanced himself from Farrakhan because his "disparaging views on Jewish people, women and the LGBT community," became clearer to him. He then downplayed a report about a private event that he attended in 2013 with Farrakhan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
"In 2013, I attended a meeting in New York City with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and nearly 50 others where I advocated for the release of an American political prisoner," Ellison wrote. "I didn’t know Mr. Farrakhan would be there and did not speak to him at the event. Contrary to recent reports, I have not been in any meeting with him since then, and he and I have no communication of any kind."
Ellison's account contradicts what Farrakhan claimed during a December 2016 interview, where he said Ellison met him in his hotel suite as recently as the summer of 2016 in Washington, D.C. with Rep. André Carson (D., Ind.).
He went on to accuse Republicans of "smear[ing]" black members of Congress and that they were trying to "pit the Jewish community and the Black community against each other, and distract from the hatred and bigotry on display by the president and the white supremacists who stormed Charlottesville this summer with their anti-Semitic chants and Confederate flags."
Ellison said he has previously viewed questions about Farrakhan to be unworthy of comment.
"I declined to dignify questions raised about Mr. Farrakhan because I know they are inherently political, and are designed to separate me from people who I work with every day on issues of importance for Americans of all backgrounds," Ellison said. "The critics will not be satisfied. They won’t be satisfied any more than President Obama’s production of his birth documents satisfied his critics, or Hillary Clinton’s eleven-hour testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi sated her detractors. It’s all part of a larger strategy perfected by a man named Lee Atwater, known as the Babe Ruth of negative politics."