Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.) was given numerous opportunities to answer questions on both his anti-Israel statements and his past praise for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, but instead blamed "bad reporting" for making his past an issue as he campaigns to head the Democratic National Committee.
Ellison appeared on MSNBC on Wednesday morning and was asked to defend his previous support of Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
Asked by Joe Scarborough whether he believes that Louis Farrakhan is an anti-Semite, Ellison said "sure" but then fought against the fact that he was being asked the question rather than elaborating on why he decided to disavow his support for the Nation of Islam leader.
"Sure, but what does he have to do with anything going on with this race or this country at this time—absolutely nothing," Ellison said.
"I think that it is bad reporting because I have a ten year record in the Congress, a four year record in the Minnesota State House, I practiced law for sixteen years," Ellison said. "I just think that, you know, it's just that kind of reporting that, you know, just that sort of is not quality and doesn't help people understand the real issues."
Scarborough followed up by asking him why he called Farrakhan a "role model for black youth."
"Here's the thing Joe, we're talking about something that happened in 1995," Ellison said, calling the questions part of a "smear campaign."
Asked about Jewish Democrats who are concerned with Ellison's prior statements, Ellison said that he doesn't think those "people" are "genuinely curious."
"We keep on having to answer this stuff, but I don't think the people that are pushing it are genuinely curious," Ellison said. "They don't want to talk about what the Democratic Party needs to look like to be an effective vehicle for the hopes and dreams of average Americans, so they bring up this kind of stuff and get you to make me answer this stuff on national television."
The Nation of Islam has fought against Ellison's attempts to dissociate himself from the group, saying that there is "no question" that the Minnesota congressman was a devoted Farrakhan supporter.
Ellison appeared earlier in the morning on CNN and was asked by host Chris Cuomo about his 2010 complaint that U.S. foreign policy is "governed by what is good or bad" for Israel.
The congressman had initially ignored questions on the comment, stating that it was "selectively edited and taken out of context," but now that the group released the full transcript of his remarks during a private fundraiser he has been forced to answer questions.
Ellison did not run away from his comment, but defended it by stating that he was actually praising how effective the Jewish community is at influencing the government and should be used as a model for other communities.
"There's a lot of people around the world and around our country who look to the jewish community as a community that has used this democratic system in order to offer its policy ideas," Ellison said.
The response prompted Cuomo to ask Ellison why he was singling out the Jewish community for using the system for advancing it's agenda.
"Who doesn't use the system to advance its own agenda?" asked Cuomo. "That's what people do, that's what constituencies are."
Ellison's characterization of Israel has been attacked by the Anti-Defamation League, which said that the congressman's words "raise the specter of age-old stereotypes about Jewish control of our government."
Ellison told Cuomo that there are "various groups that are effective," but failed to mention any other than the Jews.
Ellison also presented himself as a friend of Israel, pointing out that he has voted for "aid to Israel to the tune of $27 billion." In 2014, Ellison was one of only eight members of Congress who voted against military aid to Israel that was needed to repair its Iron Dome missile defense system.
Haim Saban, a major financier for the Democratic Party, said recently that Ellison is "clearly an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual."