Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a candidate for the Democratic National Committee chair, said the news reports about his potential antisemitism based on his praise of the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam Louis Farrakhan were bad reporting.
Partial transcript as follows:
SCARBOROUGH: Let me ask you about CNN online had a couple of quotes from the past. We’ll put a couple of them up. And what do you say to people who are concerned about past statements like for instance Minister Farrakhan is a role model for black youth wrote Ellison in insight news op ed. He is not an anti-Semite. What are your responses to the CNN reporting and other people bringing up this past?
ELLISON: I think that it is bad reporting because I have a ten-year record in congress. I have a four-year record in the Minnesota statehouse. I’ve practiced law for 16 years and did a lot — 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: So just to clarify it then based, again, on of these quotes and sort of the buzz out there what CNN and others were reporting on what you said before. Do you believe Louis Farrakhan is an anti-Semite.
ELLISON: Sure, but what does he have to do with anything going on in this race or this country at this time? Absolutely nothing.
SCARBOROUGH: CNN says that you’ve said some positive things about Minister Farrakhan, a role model for black youth.
ELLISON: But here’s the thing, Joe. We’re talking about something that happened in 1995. This was a year that the Million Man March took off. People were attacking the march at the time. The march was a very good thing. I was very proud to be part of it, but here I am having to answer questions about this and I’m not talking about what our country needs to look like and what the Democratic party can do because this smear campaign from almost 21 years ago or something like that is — this is about distracting and taking people away from the issues that really are at hand in this case. I think it serves somebody’s political purpose to push this stuff. But it doesn’t serve the public interest to serve it.
GEIST: Congressman, there are some Jewish Democrats who look back and if you’re going to lead the party they look with some fear and trepidation. Do you disavow quotes like that, the one we just read?
ELLISON: Man, I’m telling you back in 2006 and before I disavowed them. That’s the ridiculous thing about this, that we keep on having to answer this kind of stuff. But let me tell you, It’s not that people are — I don’t think people who are pushing it are genuinely curious. 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 kind of stuff on national television.
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