The deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, was among three Democratic congressmen who attended a private dinner in 2013 with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.
Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who has long been accused of anti-Semitism and whom Ellison had previously denounced, was also in attendance.
Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, did not hold his DNC position at the time but was a sitting member of Congress, as were Democratic Reps. Andre Carson of Indiana and Gregory Meeks of New York, who also attended.
Ellison’s first congressional campaign in 2006 was nearly derailed when it was revealed that he had once written newspaper op-eds praising Farrakhan and worked for him for 18 months leading up to the minister’s 1995 Million Man March. He subsequently wrote a letter to the local Jewish community claiming, “I reject and condemn the anti-Semitic statements and actions of the Nation of Islam [and] Louis Farrakhan.”
When the accusations reemerged during Ellison’s campaign for DNC leadership in 2016, he released another statement condemning Farrakhan’s “hatred and division, including, anti-Semitism, homophobia and a chauvinistic model of manhood. I disavowed them long ago, condemned their views, and apologized.”
Farrakhan later claimed that Ellison and Carson had met with him in 2015.
Rouhani was the newly-elected president of Iran in 2013 when he held the dinner in New York. While Rouhani has attempted to strike a moderate tone to Western audiences, the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has continued to call for the destruction of Israel. Iran’s government, which supports terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, is considered by the U.S. State Department to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.
The dinner, arranged by Iranian diplomats to coincide with Rouhani’s visit to New York to speak at the United Nations, was publicized on Nation of Islam websites at the time but went unnoticed until it was unearthed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Thursday. Ellison’s office did not respond to op-ed writer Jeryl Bier’s request for comment.
Farrakhan was re-inserted into the news last month after it was revealed that he had been photographed with then-Sen. Barack Obama at a Congressional Black Caucus event in 2005, but that the photographer had suppressed the photo in order to avoid harming Obama’s political future. Obama has repeatedly condemned Farrakhan for his anti-Semitism.