Labor leader defends Ellison from anti-Semitism accusations

Labor leader defends Ellison from anti-Semitism accusations
© Greg Nash

The president of the American Federation of Teachers defended Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) on Saturday against those accusing the Democratic National Committee candidate of anti-Semitism.

“I can feel and smell anti Semitism. Keith Ellison is no anti-Semite and it is maddening when anyone who doesn't know him or his record makes that ugly accusation,” Randi Weingarten wrote in a Facebook post.

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Ellison has been under fire as he mounts a bid to become the next DNC chairman after CNN unearthed comments the Minnesota lawmaker made several years ago defending Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Ellison said in a 2006 letter to Jewish groups reported by CNN that he had "long distanced myself from and rejected the Nation of Islam due to its propagation of bigoted and anti-Semitic ideas and statements, as well as other issues."

But Ellison has been under fire over other comments. The Anti-Defamation League this week blasted him over remarks on Israel in 2010, and Democratic mega-donor Haim Saban said Friday that Ellison "is clearly an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual."

Weingarten said in her post that she supports Ellison for the DNC job. She said Ellison called her recently to discuss President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's top adviser on Asia to serve as deputy national security adviser United Auto Workers strike against GM poised to head into eighth day Trump doubles down on call to investigate Biden after whistleblower complaint: 'That's the real story' MORE’s pick for Education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

Weingarten called for "a fair discussion about DNC chair" but pushed back against those who may "dismiss Keith on ugly and specious charges that are easily refuted simply by looking at his record."

She wrote that while there's "a lot" of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in general, people shouldn't "pretend it exists in Keith Ellison's heart or soul.”