My former colleagues at The Wall Street Journal recently unearthed what should be a major political scandal. It involves an anti-American government, a prominent member of Congress, and a far-right group that traffics in anti-Semitism, homophobia, and conspiracy theories. In the current climate of anxiety about “collusion” and the alt-right, you would think the liberal media would give this story top billing.
You would think wrong. Nearly a week later, the prestige press is still giving the Journal exposé the chirping-crickets treatment. Perhaps that’s because the foreign regime in question is the Islamic Republic of Iran, the member of Congress is Democratic National Committee Deputy Chairman Keith Ellison, and the far-right group is the Nation of Islam.
The original Journal report by Jeryl Bier appeared in the op-ed pages. It meticulously detailed a 2013 meeting in New York hosted by Iranian President Hasan Rouhani and attended by Ellison and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. “The Nation of Islam website documents the event,” Bier wrote, “noting that Mr. Rouhani ‘hosted the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, Muslim leaders from different Islamic communities and members of the U.S. Congress at a private meeting.'” Several Nation of Islam outlets reported Ellison’s participation at the time, and the Minnesota representative hasn’t denied the story.
The episode raises serious questions about Ellison’s judgment and his real ideological convictions.
Ellison has spent much of his political career running away from Farrakhan. His ties to the group almost derailed his first congressional run, in 2006. After it emerged that he had worked with the Nation of Islam for at least 18 months in the 1990s, Ellison wrote a letter to the Jewish community distancing himself from Farrakhan and denouncing his “anti-Semitic statements and actions.” Ellison reiterated his opposition to the group’s “anti-Semitism” and “homophobia” in 2016 when he contested the DNC leadership.
But revulsion at his former associates in the Nation of Islam didn’t stop Ellison from breaking bread with Farrakhan in 2013–bread that was provided by the Tehran regime. So which is the real Ellison: The one who drafts earnest letters of apology to Jewish groups? Or the one who, as recently as 2013, saw it fit to dine with Farrakhan under Iranian auspices?
The Ellison-Farrakhan-Rouhani shindig is also a reminder that progressive Democrats had no compunction about hobnobbing with representatives of an anti-American terror state–until recently, that is. Today, Ellison is among the party’s loudest tub-thumpers regarding claims of Trump-Russian “collusion.” Yet he met privately with the Iranian president two years after the Obama administration’s Justice Department uncovered a plot by the Tehran regime to assassinate the Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil.
Ellison does not appear to have done anything illegal in meeting with Rouhani. Nor does this revelation neutralize or invalidate concerns about Russian interference in the 2016 election. But Republicans and conservatives can be forgiven for wondering if the Democrats’ newfound and highly selective hawkishness is a genuine effort to reckon with national-security realities or a ploy in a political game.