The Private Hotel Meeting That Keith Ellison Says Never Happened

Peter Hasson | Reporter
  • Deputy DNC chair Keith Ellison claims he hasn’t met with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a notorious racist and anti-Semite, since 2013
  • Farrakhan said Ellison and Rep. Andre Carson visited him in a hotel room in 2015, and Carson has confirmed he was at the meeting
  • Ellison has repeatedly declined to address Farrakhan and Carson’s accounts of the meeting

At the heart of Democratic Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison’s ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is a private hotel visit that Ellison is said to have paid Farrakhan, but which Ellison denies took place.

Farrakhan has said that Ellison and Democratic Indiana Rep. Andre Carson visited his Washington, D.C., hotel room in 2015 and they had a friendly meeting. “Both of them, when I was in Washington, visited my suite, and we sat down talking like you and I are talking,” Farrakhan said in a 2016 Facebook video.

Carson has confirmed that he was at the meeting. Ellison, however, is saying he was never there.

Ellison hasn’t been “in any meeting with [Farrakhan]” since he and Farrakhan both attended a dinner in 2013 that was hosted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, he said in a blog post Saturday.

Farrakhan is a notorious racist and anti-Semite whose close ties to prominent Democratic politicians and activists have come under scrutiny in recent months.

Ellison, deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), claimed in December 2016 that he had cut all ties with Farrakhan before he first ran for Congress in 2006. In reality, he attended two events with Farrakhan while in Congress, in addition to the 2015 meeting, new reporting has shown.

The first event took place sometime between 2010 and 2013. A video posted to YouTube shows Ellison standing and talking among a group of men at a Muslim community meeting, just feet away from Farrakhan. The second event was a dinner that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani held for American Muslim leaders in 2013.

The Washington Post dinged Ellison in a fact-check earlier in March for claiming that he cut ties with Farrakhan before 2006, citing The Daily Caller’s reporting on the subject.

Ellison acknowledged crossing paths with Farrakhan at the two events but indirectly challenged accounts of the 2015 hotel meeting — the most intimate of his three reported meetings with Farrakhan, in Saturday’s blog post.

“I do not have and have never had a relationship with Mr. Farrakhan, but I have been in the same room as him,” Ellison wrote.

“About a decade ago, [Farrakhan] and I had a brief, chance encounter in Washington, D.C.,” Ellison conceded. “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,” Ellison asserted.

That claim directly conflicts with Farrakhan’s account of the visit in December 2016, a year later.

Carson confirmed his attendance at the hotel room meeting and confirmed that it took place in 2015, in an interview with Indianapolis Star columnist Tim Swarens, who published his comments in a column March 13.

Ellison has yet to specifically address Farrakhan and Carson’s accounts of the hotel visit and has repeatedly declined opportunities to do.

When the Minnesota Star Tribune in February asked Ellison spokesman Karthik Ganapathy about the hotel room meeting, Ganapathy declined to answer the question and instead attacked the paper for asking it.

CNN host Wolf Blitzer brought up the meeting to Ellison at the end of an interview in March but Ellison declined to address it, only saying that he has “no relationship” with Farrakhan.

Ellison’s ties to Farrakhan go back decades.

In college, Ellison publicly defended Farrakhan against charges of anti-Semitism. Farrakhan has consistently railed against “satanic” Jews and once referred to Hitler as a “very great man.”

“Now Keith was in the Nation in 1995,” Farrakhan said in February’s Saviour’s Day address. “He was selling the Final Call newspaper [the Nation of Islam’s publication]. Beautiful brother.”

Ellison admitted to The Washington Post in 2006 that he worked with the Nation of Islam for approximately 18 months ahead of Farrakhan’s 1995 Million Man March.

Ellison has downplayed his ties to the Nation of Islam as limited to the his work with the Million Man March in interview since then. But Ellison was a known Farrakhan supporter when he ran for state legislature in 1998.

In an article from that year reviewed by TheDCNF, the Star Tribune described Ellison as “a supporter of Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.” 

Follow Hasson on Twitter @PeterJHasson

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