Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.) said that none of his colleagues ever asked him about his connections with controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as he campaigned to take over as the lead sponsor of a single-payer health care bill, ripping the media for focusing on "this Farrakhan thing."
Ellison, who serves as deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, has faced increased scrutiny lately over his prior membership in the Nation of Islam and his reported meetings in recent years with Farrkhan, an outspoken bigot who espouses conspiracy theories about Jews and whites.
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On Wednesday, Ellison received unanimous consent to take over the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act from former Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.), who retired in 2017 amid multiple sexual misconduct accusations.
Ellison told the Washington Post none of his colleagues voiced concerns about the Farrakhan story as he campaigned to lead the effort on the bill, which is popular with the left.
"None of my colleagues ever asked me about that, only reporters," Ellison said. "I am telling you, no one cares. I’ve been all over Minnesota, all over Alabama, all over Missouri, all over Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and nobody ever asked me about this. People ask me about wages, about pay, about health care, about guns, about immigration. They ask me all kinds of challenging questions. But for some reason, some folks in the Fourth Estate think that this Farrakhan thing needs to be inquired about instead."
Ellison defended Farrakhan in some of his writings in the 1980s and 1990s before later distancing himself and expressing regret for his prior activities when he first ran for Congress in 2006.
In an anti-Semitic rant last month, Farrakhan called out Ellison, saying "the Jews" made Ellison apologize for his prior membership in the Nation of Islam in order to let him run for Congress.
Ellison has reacted with hostility to media questions about Farrakhan, telling CNN in February there was "no relationship" and that the story was a "smear" by his political opponents.
Ellison isn't the only liberal figure facing questions about his connections to Farrakhan. Rep. Danny Davis (D., Ill.) recently said that Farrakhan is an "outstanding human being," and Women’s March co-chairwoman Tamika Mallory attended Farrakhan's inflammatory speech and has praised him in the past.