WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rep. Keith Ellison, the deputy chairman of the Democratic Party, said he has never had a relationship with Louis Farrakhan, the virulently anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam.
He accused critics who are pressing him to explain his relationship to Farrakhan of trying to divide Jews and blacks, but also only alluded to his longtime association with the Nation of Islam.
“I do not have and have never had a relationship with Mr. Farrakhan, but I have been in the same room as him,” Ellison, D-Minn., wrote over the weekend on Medium, the blogging website.
“The right’s attempt to split the Jewish and Black communities is not going to work,” he said. “Now more than ever, when the right-wing is working to divide us by skin color, faith traditions and by our place of birth, human solidarity is critical to seeing us through this perilous time.”
Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, said his encounters with Farrakhan since Ellison’s election to Congress in 2006 have been perfunctory, if that, mentioning a “chance encounter” in a Washington, D.C. hotel room around a decade ago, and a meeting with Iran’s president in which Farrakhan was also present along with other political figures.
Ellison also for the first time unequivocally denied Farrakhan’s claim that the two met in a Washington hotel room in 2015 or 2016.
Ellison condemned Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism, referring to the letter he wrote to Minnesota’s Jewish community in 2006 denouncing Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam and anti-Semitism.
In the Medium article, Ellison only alludes to his own longtime relationship with the Nation of Islam.
“If you are a Black man from my generation, you remember the march,” he said, referring to the 1995 Million Man March initiated by Farrakhan. “I helped organize the march in my local community in Minneapolis. And I marched in it, along with civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks and Jesse Jackson.”
Ellison’s affiliation with the Nation of Islam lasted about a decade, and he was advocating for the group as late as 1998.