Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) struggled Tuesday afternoon to reconcile his criticism of the Trump administration’s travel ban as “bigoted” and his ties to anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
Ellison sparred with CNN anchor Jake Tapper after fuming about the Supreme Court’s ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, wherein Chief Justice John Roberts declared that foreign nationals do not have a constitutional right to enter the United States. Tapper asked Ellison about being a former “follower of Farrakhan,” which set off the Muslim congressman.
A transcript follows:
JAKE TAPPER: You’ve been decrying President Trump’s bigotry, obviously you used to follow somebody who continually expressed sexist anti-LGTBQ and anti-Semitic bigotry, Louis Farrakhan. You have condemned Farrakhan’s bigotry –
REP. KEITH ELLISON: I would disagree with that. I would disagree with that, sir.
TAPPER: What do you disagree with?
REP. ELLISON: I’m sorry that comes up in this context.
TAPPER: Well you are decrying bigotry, Louis Farrakhan is a pretty clear bigot.
REP. ELLISON: Right. And I agree that that’s true. And I think that I made myself very clear. But look that’s going back to the false equivalency. You know, I don’t have any support for what the individual you just mentioned stands for, nor do I agree with Trump’s bigotry either. But then again, you know, any time somebody tries to say that something is unfair and bigoted if you are going to say, one time you sort of said something or somebody said you said something and then –
TAPPER: You were a follower of Farrakhan. You were a follower of Farrakhan, sir.
REP. ELLISON: Jake, Jake, no I wasn’t. Jake, I’m sorry. That is not true, Jake. But I just want to say to you if anyone who raises concerns about bigotry then is put in a position to have to defend themselves, then we never get to talk about bigotry and I hope that’s not what your purpose is, Jake, because you’ve stood for an equal society but if you are going to try to put me on the spot and have to explain myself – I didn’t pass a Muslim ban. I didn’t – this isn’t my executive order.
TAPPER: You didn’t let me ask my question. My question was, The Washington Post fact checker in March gave you four Pinocchios for your claim that you have no relationship with him and I want you to take a listen to Farrakhan talking in an interview –
REP. ELLISON: That’s wrong.
TAPPER: About how you only –
REP. ELLISON: That is not true.
TAPPER: And Farrakhan – The Washington Post fact checker did give you four Pinocchios about that. That’s just true.
REP. ELLISON: Jake, they were wrong. Jake, Jake, I have not – it is untrue, Jake I’m sorry. And you know, I’m disappointed that that’s why you called me on your show today.
TAPPER: I didn’t. that is not why I called you on the show. The Supreme Court –
REP. ELLISON: Jake, Jake, the Supreme Court has ruled that the President’s ban on Muslims and Muslim countries, and which started in his campaign rhetoric, that that is okay. And now, Jake, you want me to have to justify myself —
TAPPER: No –
REP. ELLISON: Based on facts that were not true and were always political. And so, and so, that’s a shame Jake because –
TAPPER: What I – the question, the question I had for –
REP. ELLISON: We can’t have for real conversation –
TAPPER: It is a real conversation.
REP. ELLISON: We can’t have a conversation about bigotry because – we can’t have a conversation about bigotry because you’re going to say, “Well what about you? Did you ever in any way and anyone know or see anybody who was ever bigoted, and thereafter you have no moral standing to claim — to decry bigotry.” Jake, that’s just not true.
TAPPER: I’m not saying that at all.
REP. ELLISON: I’m sorry we’re having this conversation. Jake –
TAPPER: Well, the question – the question about Farrakhan which you haven’t –
REP. ELLISON: I came on here to talk about the Muslim ban.
TAPPER: I understand that. The question I have for you –
REP. ELLISON: And now you’re trying to put me on the spot. It’s not fair.
TAPPER: The question I had for you, that I’ve been trying to ask, is Farrakhan said in 2016, you met with him in his hotel suite in Washington, D.C.
REP. ELLISON: That is a false — that did not happen.
TAPPER: It did not happen. So Farrakhan is – Farrakhan’s lying.
REP. ELLISON: That is untrue. I’m not – I don’t know if he’s lying or not. I could tell you I was in no such meeting. I was in no such meeting. I’ve made that clear. You know that, Jake. I have denied this because it’s not true. But here I am on your show having to talk about this when the Supreme Court just upheld what the President said was a Muslim ban from the very beginning. And I’m – so now I have to defend myself when that’s not what the context of this discussion is about at all, Jake.
TAPPER: It was just a questioned I wanted to ask —
REP. ELLISON: No, I was in no such meeting.
TAPPER: You were – okay. [Crosstalk.] So Farrakhan is lying about it. That’s fine. I – if you’re telling me that, that Farrakhan is lying—
REP. ELLISON: Well, fine. You, look—
TAPPER: That’s all I wanted to know.
REP. ELLISON: Maybe he is, but I can tell you this, Jake — Jake, I can tell you I was not in a meeting. What somebody’s subjective intent was I will not speculate. I can tell you I was never in any such meeting as that; it’s not true.
REP. ELLISON: It’s simply not true.
TAPPER: I wanted to get you on the record about it and that’s all I—
REP. ELLISON: And I wrote about this, and I wrote about this months ago, Jake.
TAPPER: In 2017 —
REP. ELLISON: And I think you know that.
TAPPER: You wrote about it in The Washington—
REP. ELLISON: No, I wrote — no I was not, I was not in any such meeting with that individual. I simply wasn’t.
REP. ELLISON: Whether you say lying – I don’t know. I mean, I wasn’t in the meeting. I could tell you that.
TAPPER: He says that you and Congressman Carson met with him in the suite in his apart— when he came to visit. You’re saying it’s not true. I will take you at your word. I certainly believe you more than I believe Louis Farrakhan—
REP. ELLISON: I’ve said repeatedly.
TAPPER: Okay. The Washington Post fact—
REP. ELLISON: Well, I hope so, but Jake, this is not the first time I have denied this and I think you know that.
TAPPER: Congressman, it was just a question, and you were talking quite a bit about the bigotry, in your view, of President Trump. The bigotry, in your view, of this travel ban. I thought it was worth asking about somebody – a bigot – with whom you used to associate though you have distanced yourself from and—
REP. ELLISON: No.
TAPPER: Condemned him since.
REP. ELLISON: Jake, I worked on the Million Man March and I was proud to do so. That’s it.
TAPPER: Alright, Congressman. Thank you for your time. I appreciate it.