Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who's seeking to head the Democratic National Committee, once argued Jews "are trying to oppress minorities all over the world," a former classmate told Mother Jones magazine.
According to magazine writer Tim Murphy, the startling remark was made during a clash in the 1990s, when Ellison was at the University of Minnesota Law School and began "making a name for himself as a fierce critic of police and a defender of Nation of Islam leader" Louis Farrakhan.
Michael Olenick, a Jewish student and the former opinions editor at the student newspaper at the time, told Mother Jones Ellison had argued that an oppressed group could not be racist toward Jews because Jews were themselves oppressors.
"European white Jews are trying to oppress minorities all over the world," Olenick quoted Ellison arguing. "Keith would go on all the time about 'Jewish slave traders.'"
According to the magazine, Ellison – during his association with Farrakhan – even took to wearing a bow tie like other members of Fruit of Islam, which is the Nation of Islam's security force.
A Minnesota Nation of Islam leader said Ellison spent several years as a "trusted member of our inner circle," officially serving as the local group's chief of protocol, the magazine reported.
Ellison's later rejection of the Farrakhan is "the ultimate betrayal," members told the magazine.
Murphy writes that although the charges of anti-Semitism continue to dog Ellison, his friends insist his past radical identity is not who he is today.
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