Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.) has announced that he is running to be the next chair of the Democratic National Committee, but his past comments might stand in his way.
Ellison gained early endorsements from party leaders like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.). But some Democrats are hesitant of supporting Ellison because they believe the DNC chair position requires full-time attention. Ellison answered Democrats' concerns by saying he will give up his congressional seat if he is elected.
Other Democrats have reservations about Ellison because of his past. The Minnesota congressman has previously made controversial remarks about Israel and has ties to groups like the Nation of Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood. During his trip to Saudi Arabia in 2008, Ellison met with a radical cleric who endorsed killing U.S. soldiers and a president of a bank that funded suicide bombings against Israel. The Anti-Defamation League has issued a statement saying Ellison's past comments about Israel are "deeply disturbing" and disqualify him from leading the DNC.
In one of the comments that the ADL said was disqualifying, Ellison described the Jewish state as having a stranglehold on U.S. foreign policy.
"The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people," Ellison said in 2010. "A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million. Does that make sense? Is that logic?"
Ellison is no stranger to making controversial statements.
Back in 2010, the same year of his comment on Israel, Ellison called Arizona's immigration laws "fascist" and "racist."
He also compared anti-terrorism surveillance policies to Japanese internment during World War II.
Ellison is running against South Carolina Democrat Jaime Harrison, who spent the last eight years as a lobbyist for the Podesta Group, and New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley to head the DNC.