The deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, attend a private dinner with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Louis Farrakhan, the virulently anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam movement.
Two other Democrat congressmen, Andre Carson of Indiana and Gregory Meeks of New York, were at the event, held in 2013 in New York, after Rouhani delivered a speech to the 68th United Nations General Assembly.
Although the event, arranged by Iranian diplomats, was reported on by Nation of Islam websites at the time, it was brought into the media spotlight in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Thursday. A Final Call report from 2013 included photos of Ellison, Gregory and Farrakhan at the dinner.
Rouhani had just been elected as president of Iran, a country that since 1984 the US government has listed as a “state sponsor of terror.” Iran has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel and is the prime sponsor of Hezbollah, a Lebanese terror group that is active throughout the world. In a statement announcing new sanctions on Hezbollah earlier this month, the US Treasure Department said the group is “responsible for the death of hundreds of Americans.”
A long-time regime insider who won power in 2013 and again in 2017 with the backing of reformists, Rouhani has faced tough criticism from conservatives over his efforts to rebuild relations with the West and ease civil liberties. His election was followed by a so-called “charm offensive” meant to soften Western attitudes toward his country.
Ellison was not the DNC deputy chair at the time, only taking up the position in 2017. The congressman has in the past written op-eds praising Farrakhan, and worked for him for 18 months leading up to the Million Man March in 1995, Forward reported.
Jewish leaders have repeatedly denounced Farrakhan as an anti-Semite, noting his speeches accusing Jews of conspiring to control the government, the media and Hollywood.
During his campaign for the DNC chairmanship, Ellison tried to distance himself from Farrakhan, saying his interaction was limited to the 1995 march, but Farrakhan responded by claiming he had met with Ellinson in 2015.
In 2010 Farrakhan met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York, according to a Final Call report.
Farrakhan gained headlines recently when a photo emerged from 2005 of him together with the-then Democrat senator Barack Obama. The photographer said he had suppressed its publication in the past at the request of a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.