Here Are 9 Potentially Damaging Facts About Keith Ellison, a Frontrunner to Chair the DNC

Rep. Keith Ellison
Rep. Keith Ellison / AP
February 23, 2017

The race to be the next Democratic National Committee chair has been ongoing for several months, and one of the leading candidates is Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison.

Before Democrats vote this weekend in Atlanta on who will lead the DNC, they should be cognizant of Ellison's past. Here are nine potentially damaging facts about Ellison.


1. He previously defended anti-Semitic leaders

In a 1990 column, Ellison accused a college president of stifling free speech for criticizing a guest speaker's remarks. The guest speaker was Kwame Ture (also known as Stokely Carmichael), who said that Zionists worked with the Nazis during World War II and that "Zionism must be destroyed."

"The Zionists joined with the Nazis in murdering Jews, so they would flee to Palestine," said True, according to one account by the Anti-Defamation League.

University of Minnesota President Nils Hasselmo called the statements offensive. Ellison said Hasselmo's remarks did not offer any "factual" refutation of Ture's comments.

Ellison also previously defended Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan by writing multiple articles arguing he is not anti-Semitic. Since entering Congress, Ellison has tried to distance himself from both Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, drawing ire from the group.

2. He compared the 9/11 terror attacks to the Reichstag fire

In a 2007 speech, Ellison compared the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the Reichstag fire that helped bring Adolf Hitler to power in Nazi Germany.

The Reichstag fire was a 1933 arson attack on the German Parliament that many believe was a false flag operation that helped Hitler assume power.

"Remember 9/11. Right? You had never have [sic] all this discrimination against religious minorities but for 9/11," Ellison said. "You had it, but you didn't have it to the degree that we have it now. 9/11 is this juggernaut event in American history, and it allows—it's almost like, you know, the Reichstag fire kind of reminds me of that. Does anybody know what I'm talking about?"

"But who benefited from 9/11?" an audience member asked.

"Well, I mean, you know, you and I both know," Ellison said.

"Yeah, Bush," the audience member replied.

"But the thing is that, you know, after the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the communists for it, and it put the leader of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted," Ellison said.

Ellison used the analogy to compare President George W. Bush to Hitler, arguing the former was granted greater presidential power after Sept. 11, 2001 in a manner similar to the latter following the fire.

3. He has been arrested

Ellison was arrested at an immigration rally on the National Mall in 2013. He and several other protesters blocked traffic, resulting in his arrest. Ellison's office called the protest an act of "civil disobedience."

Ellison was also arrested in 2009 at a protest in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.) arrested by U.S. Capitol Police on Capitol Hill during immigration rally in Washington, Oct. 8, 2013 / AP
Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.) arrested by U.S. Capitol Police on Capitol Hill during immigration rally in Washington, Oct. 8, 2013 / AP

4. He met with a radical cleric in Saudi Arabia

During a 2008 trip to Saudi Arabia, Ellison met with an Islamic cleric who endorsed the killing of U.S. soldiers. Pictures of the trip show Ellison met with Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, who issued a fawta in 2004 that urged jihad against U.S. forces in Iraq. Ellison's office told investigators of the House Ethics Committee that he did not participate in any "official" meetings.

The Minnesota Democrat also met with the president of a bank used to pay the families of Palestinian suicide bombers while in Saudi Arabia.

The trip was funded by an organization that has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

5. He skipped the Women's Day March

The day after President Trump's inauguration, grassroots Democrats took to the streets to protest nationwide. Ellison skipped the protests and instead attended an exclusive donor retreat organized by Democratic operative David Brock.

6. He forgot who attacked Pearl Harbor 

In a 2012 interview with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, Ellison made a gaffe when he said that Germany was behind the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

BILL O'REILLY: I will point to history. The same mindset was taken when dealing with Nazi Germany: "We're not going to go into aggressive action. We don't believe they're going to do this. We don't believe they're going to do that." And they absolutely did everything.

So I think you got to learn from history.

KEITH ELLISON: In World War II? In World War II they attacked Pearl Harbor. That would be enough for —

O'REILLY: No, this is the German theater.

7. He believed that black Americans did not have to obey the government

Ellison said in 1992 that black Americans do not have an obligation to obey the government because it considers them "less than human."

He made the comment after police officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King and protests broke out nationwide.

Ellison also told protesters that black people do not live in a democracy.

8. He wrote that the U.S. Constitution is evidence of a white racist conspiracy

Ellison once wrote a column that called the U.S. Constitution the "best evidence of a white racist conspiracy to subjugate other peoples."

9. He allegedly said that Jews want to 'oppress minorities all over the world'

Mother Jones interviewed a former classmate of Ellison's who claimed that the Minnesota Democrat said that Jews want to oppress minorities all over the world. Michael Olenick, Ellison's former classmate, said Ellison's argument was that "an oppressed group could not be racist toward Jews because Jews were themselves oppressors," according to Mother Jones.

Olenick went on to describe how Ellison would frequently talk about how European white Jews were the oppressors and bring up Jewish slave traders in conversation.

Ellison's past controversial remarks and associations have so far not hurt his candidacy to head the DNC. The Minnesota Democrat is considered the frontrunner to chair the Democratic Party along with Tom Perez, Barack Obama's former secretary of labor.

Published under: Keith Ellison