Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.), the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, argued with CNN’s Jake Tapper Tuesday about his prior connection to Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan.
Ellison termed President Donald Trump a bigot in response to CNN anchor Jake Tapper’s question about whether travel bans targeting Muslim majority countries during the Obama administration were problematic. Ellison said the Supreme Court should not have ignored bigoted intent in ruling against Trump’s travel ban, leading Tapper to ask about Ellison’s own connection with Farrakhan, a notorious bigot.
"You've been decrying president Trump's bigotry; obviously, you used to follow somebody who continually expressed sexist, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-Semitic bigotry, Louis Farrakhan—"
"I would disagree with that," Ellison interjected. He went on to explain that he has denounced Farrakhan but he was not associated with him, contradicting the Washington Post’s fact check on the matter.
Ellison continued to talk over Tapper and prevent him from asking his question, saying he had no right to bring up Farrakhan and set up a "false equivalency" with Trump.
"Going back to the false equivalency, I don't have any support for what the individual you just mentioned stands for, nor do I agree with Trump's bigotry either," Ellison said. "Any time somebody tries to say that something is unfair and bigoted, if you are going to say, ‘Well, one time you sort of said something or somebody said you said something, and then no one can complain about bigotry—"
"You were a follower of Farrakhan, sir," Tapper said.
"I’m sorry, That’s not true, Jake," Ellison said. "I just want to say to you, that if anyone who raises concerns about bigotry then is put in a position to have to defend themselves, then we never get to talk about bigotry. And I hope that is not what your purpose is, Jake, because you've stood for an equal society but if you try to put me on the spot and have to explain myself — I didn't pass a Muslim ban."
Tapper tried to get Ellison to respond Farrakhan's words about a private meeting he had with Ellison, but Ellison denied it emphatically, saying the Washington Post was "wrong."
"We can't have a conversation about bigotry because you're going to say, 'Well, what about you? Did you ever in any way know or see anybody who was ever bigoted?' And therefore you have no moral standing to claim, to decry bigotry. Jake, that is just not true, and I'm sorry we're having this conversation," Ellison said.
"I’m not saying that at all," Tapper said, but Ellison continued to defend himself before Tapper had the chance to ask his question.
"Jake, I came on here to talk about the Muslim ban, and now you're trying to put me on the spot, it's not fair," Ellison replied.
Finally he let Tapper ask about whether he met with Farrakhan, as Farrakhan said, and he said he does not know if Farrakhan is lying but he was not at a meeting with him.
"That is untrue. I don't know if he's lying or not. I could tell you I was in no such meeting," Ellison said. "I've made that clear.
Ellison went on to argue that it was inappropriate for Tapper to even bring the matter up, even though Farrakhan has been in the news in recent months for his anti-Semitic and homophobic beliefs.
"I have denied this because it is not true, but here I am on your show having to talk about this when the Supreme Court just upheld what the president said was a Muslim ban from the very beginning. And so now I have to defend myself when that is not what the context of this discussion is about at all, Jake."
After Ellison continued to decry Tapper’s questioning, the anchor had to close the interview but explained that he thought it was a valid question considering Ellison’s focus on bigotry.
"Congressman, it was just a question, you were talking about the bigotry in your view of Trump and the view of the travel ban and I thought it was worth asking about a bigot with whom you used to associate and you have distanced yourself and condemned him since," Tapper said.
"I worked on the Million Man March and I was proud to do so," Ellison said at the end of the interview. "That's it."
This appears to contradict the facts highlighted in articles from the Washington Post and CNN, which show Ellison defending Farrakhan after the Million Man March and even going to events in which both of them attended. Ellison maintains that Farrakhan is lying about a private meeting they had in 2016, although he did not immediately deny it when CNN asked.