Keith Ellison: GOP "basically a bigoted party"

Minnesota's Muslim congressman on the GOP's anti-Muslim crusade

Published September 6, 2012 5:14PM (EDT)

Keith Ellison          (AP/Alex Brandon)
Keith Ellison (AP/Alex Brandon)

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., referred to the Republican Party as "basically a bigoted party" in an interview with Mother Jones' Tim Murphy. Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, has apparently noticed that the majority of the GOP is boiling over with hysterical paranoia about American Muslims and the more supposedly "moderate" elements refuse or are unable to sideline the kooks and rebut their claims. And now the GOP platform actually has an anti-Shariah line! This is insane.

"I'm sad that they have decided to go into this dark ugly place where they see the whole world as their enemy," Ellison continued. "And this is the thing: I don't mind debating taxes and spending; we probably should. But they're the party that is basically a bigoted party and they have now officially declared themselves against a whole segment of the American population, because if we said we were going to put a plank opposing Jewish law, or Catholic canon, it would be an outrage. This is also an outrage. But you know, it'll pass."

Ellison will get some grief for this, because the conservative movement has lately decided that accusing whites of bigotry is the new bigotry. It's already started, actually: "So unlike a Democrat to accuse the GOP of being racist," says the prose magician behind "Weasel Zippers," who then adds "no, not really" so that you know he was being sarcastic. (Sample comment: "A ghetto black from Detroit converts to Islam and makes good: Kieth's bio. I think that he and Obama have a lot more in common than many even suspect.")

What's interesting is how Ellison talks about the difficulty of having a professional relationship with a psychopath who hates you. I refer to Rep. Michele Bachmann, whose gerrymandered suburban 6th District borders Ellison's urban 5th District.

In a party full of anti-Muslim bigots, Bachmann has distinguished herself with the scope and breadth of her bigotry, attempting to launch a full-on witch hunt against Muslims in American public service, like longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin. After some less extreme Republicans criticized her smear campaign, Bachmann cheerfully pressed on, accusing Ellison himself of ties to anti-American Islamic radicals. Speaking to Glenn Beck (of course), she said Ellison "has a long record of being associated with [the Council on American–Islamic Relations] and with the Muslim Brotherhood." (In the right-wing imagination, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is a terrorist front group and the Muslim Brotherhood is precisely the same thing as Hamas. Ellison has no "ties" to the Brotherhood.)

So. How does one talk to someone who has the same job as you, but who happens to think you're an anti-American terrorist-symp? You sort of avoid the issue.

Ellison said he's spoken with Bachmann once since the Abedin controversy—in response to a bill she was proposing to audit Medicaid recipients—but didn't bring up the subject with her. "I don't find that to be a productive use of my time or hers," Ellison said. "She whipped up a million [fundraising] dollars by promulgating hate against a religious minority. I'm not gonna talk her out of that." His plan to settle the argument is to campaign for her opponent this fall, Minneapolis hotelier Jim Graves.

"She's always bragging about how great the private sector is. She should join it."

Oh man, good one, Rep. Ellison.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure how helpful it'd be for Bachmann's challenger to have Ellison campaign for him, in that particular district, which has repeatedly elected Michele Bachmann. (Though never by a large margin.)

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

MORE FROM Alex Pareene

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2012 Elections Keith Ellison Michele Bachmann Minnesota Politics