Rep. Keith Ellison insisted on Sunday he has been denouncing Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan since the early-1990s, even though he met with Farrakhan a few times over the last few years, including privately in 2016.
Ellison, the No. 2 man at the Democratic National Committee, said he was drawn to Farrakhan in the early 1990s because he was speaking about civil rights. “At that time he had some things, I thought, he had some things to offer," Ellison, D-Minn., said in a debate with Doug Wardlow, who is also running to be Minnesota's next attorney general.
But Ellison said he rejects Farrakhan's views, and has for more than two decades.
"He made it very clear in the early 90s that his views and mine were absolutely incompatible, and I've been saying that ever since," Ellison said.
Keith Ellison defends his ties to Louis Farrakhan, saying Farrakhan had "some things to offer" in the early 1990s.— Michael Ahrens (@michael_ahrens) October 22, 2018
In 1984, Farrakhan made headlines for calling Judaism a "gutter religion" and Hitler "a very great man." pic.twitter.com/SKvNC9btr5
But that goes against several press reports that say Ellison has continued to stay in touch with Farrakhan, who last week compared Jewish people to termites.
Ellison reportedly met privately with Farrakhan in 2016, and met with him twice in earlier in the decade. Ellison's effort to distance himself from Farrakhan earned him four "Pinocchios" in a Washington Post fact check.
“Ellison is trying to have it both ways,” the Post concluded, “publicly distancing himself while privately doing something else. He earns Four Pinocchios for suggesting his interactions with Farrakhan ended in 2006."
Ellison defended himself by saying some of those meetings were incidental.
“I do not have and have never had a relationship with Mr. Farrakhan, but I have been in the same room as him,” Ellison said when defending the encounters to the Post. “About a decade ago, he and I had a brief, chance encounter in Washington, D.C. In 2013, I attended a meeting in New York City with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and nearly 50 others where I advocated for the release of an American political prisoner. I didn’t know Mr. Farrakhan would be there and did not speak to him at the event. Contrary to recent reports, I have not been in any meeting with him since then, and he and I have no communication of any kind."