Fireworks on CNN: Jake Tapper Torches Keith Ellison Over Louis Farrakhan Ties

CNN’s The Lead spent almost six minutes on Tuesday discussing the Supreme Court’s ruling on President Trump’s travel ban with Minnesota Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison, but host Jake Tapper turned the tables on Ellison by grilling him for the remaining five minutes on his ties to anti-gay, anti-Semitic, and sexist Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. 

This tense exchange marked the latest example of how strong Tapper has been on this issue, often doing the work that his colleagues in broadcast and cable news failed to do on Farrakhan’s ugly rhetoric.

 

 

“You've been decrying President Trump's bigotry. Obviously, you used to follow somebody who continually expressed sexist, anti-LGBTQ and anti-Semitic bigotry, Lewis Farrakhan. You have condemned Farrakhan’s bigotry,” Tapper began before Ellison interrupted to twice proclaim that he “would disagree with that.”

Tapper asked “what do you disagree with” because “you’re decrying bigotry and Louis Farrakhan is a pretty clear bigot” and Ellison responded:

Right and I agree that’s true and I think I’ve made myself very clear. But look, that’s going back to the false equivalency. You know, I don't have any support for what the individual you just mentioned stands for, nor do I agree with Trump's bigotry either, but that — then again, any time somebody tries to say that something is unfair and bigoted, if you’re going to say, “well, one time, you sort of said something or somebody said you said something” and then, so nobody can complain about bigotry.

Tapper interjected to stop Ellison’s filibuster, but the two continued speaking overtop of each other with the former pointing out: “Oh, you were — you were a follower of Farrakhan. You were a follower of Farrakhan, sir.”

Ellison claimed that he wasn’t, but what stuck out in the interview was not once did Ellison utter Farrakhan’s name. It’s like he was scared of him a la characters in the Harry Potter books refusing to call out Voldemort by name.

The Minnesota congressman then went on another meandering rant about how unfortunate it was that he can’t talk about what’s, in his view, bigotry by the Supreme Court and the White House without having to answer for Farrakhan.

“You didn't let me ask my question. My question was, The Washington Post fact-checker in March gave you four Pinocchios for your claim that you have no relationship with him and I want you to take a listen to Farrakhan talking in a interview about how you only — and Farrakhan — when The Washington Post fact-checker did give you four Pinocchios for that. That’s just true,” Tapper explained as Ellison shouted to deflect (which prevented the soundbite from airing).

Ellison insisted that “they were wrong” and “it is untrue” and, in frustration, informed Tapper that “I'm disappointed that that’s why you called me on your show today.” Tapper hit back that he didn’t bring him on for this exchange, but Ellison kept kvetching that they’re no longer talking about the Supreme Court case (even though they had spent almost six minutes doing just that).

Here’s another tense part of the interview (click “expand” to read more):

ELLISON: — that’s a shame, Jake because you can’t —

TAPPER: — the question I had for —

ELLISON: — have a real conversation. 

TAPPER: The ques — it is a real conversation.

ELLISON: You can’t have a conversation about bigotry because — we can't have a conversation about bigotry because you're going to say: “Well, what about you? Did you ever in any way or anyone — know or see anybody who was ever bigoted and therefore, you have no moral standing to claim — to decry bigotry.” Jake, that is just not true. 

TAPPER: I'm not saying that at all. 

ELLISON: And I'm sorry we're having this conversation. 

TAPPER: Well, the question — 

ELLISON: Well, Jake — Jake —

TAPPER: — I had about Farrakhan — 

ELLISON: — I came on here to talk about the Muslim ban. 

TAPPER: I understand that. The question I had for you —

ELLISON: And you’re trying to put me on the spot. It’s not fair. 

TAPPER: The question I had for you, that I've been trying to ask is Farrakhan said, in 2016, you met with him in his hotel suite in Washington, D.C. 

ELLISON: That is a false — that did not happen. 

TAPPER: It did not happen, sir? 

ELLISON: I have been very clear that —

TAPPER: And Farrakhan — Farrakhan’s lying?

ELLISON: — is not true. I’m not saying — I don't know if he's lying or not. I could tell you I was in no such meeting. I was in no such meeting. 

Later in this epic interview bout, Tapper informed Ellison that he “wanted to get you on the record about it and that’s all,” so Ellison employed some snarky to tell him that “I wrote about this and I wrote about this months ago, Jake.”

He shouldn’t have had to do this, but Tapper ended the interview by reiterating that “it was just a question” and since “[y]ou were talking about the bigotry, in your view, of President Trump, the bigotry, in your view, of this travel ban,” so “I thought it was worth asking about somebody, a bigot, with whom you used to associate though you have distanced yourself and condemned him.”

Ellison responded that, concerning Farrakhan, he only “worked on the Million Man March.” Tapper thanked him for coming on, but the disgruntled Ellison declined to say anything, instead staring into the camera.

To see the transcript of the full Farrakhan exchange from CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper on June 26, click “expand.”

CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper
June 26, 2018
4:24 p.m. Eastern

JAKE TAPPER: You've been decrying President Trump's bigotry. Obviously, you used to follow somebody who continually expressed sexist, anti-LGBTQ and anti-Semitic bigotry, Lewis Farrakhan. You have condemned Farrakhan’s bigotry.

MINNESOTA DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN KEITH ELLISON: I would disagree with that. I would disagree with that, sir, but I’m sorry —

TAPPER: What do — what do you disagree with?

ELLISON: — that comes up in this context. 

TAPPER: Well, you’re decrying bigotry —

ELLISON: No, I haven’t.

TAPPER: — and Louis Farrakhan is a pretty clear bigot. 

ELLISON: Right and I agree that’s true and I think I’ve made myself very clear. But look, that’s going back to the false equivalency. You know, I don't have any support for what the individual you just mentioned stands for, nor do I agree with Trump's bigotry either, but that — then again, any time somebody tries to say that something is unfair and bigoted, if you’re going to say, “well, one time, you sort of said something or somebody said you said something” and then, so nobody can 

TAPPER: Oh, you were — 

ELLISON: — complain —

TAPPER: — you were a follower of Farrakhan.

ELLISON: — about bigotry. Jake, Jake — 

TAPPER: You were a follower of Farrakhan, sir.

ELLISON: — Jake. No I wasn't, Jake.

TAPPER: You didn’t?

ELLISON: I’m sorry. That is not true, Jake. But I just want to say to you. If anyone who raises concerns about bigotry then is put in a position to have to defend themselves, then we never get to talk about bigotry and I hope that’s not what your purpose is, Jake, because you've stood for — an equal society but if you’re going to try to put me on the spot and have to explain myself — I didn't pass a Muslim ban. I didn’t write a —

TAPPER: No, I didn't.

ELLISON: This is not my — my piece of — my executive order.

TAPPER: You didn't let me ask my question. My question was, The Washington Post fact-checker in March gave you four Pinocchios for your claim that you have no relationship with him and I want you to take a listen to Farrakhan talking in a interview — 

ELLISON: That’s wrong. 

TAPPER: — about how you only —

ELLISON: That is not true. 

TAPPER: — and Farrakhan — when The Washington Post fact-checker did give you four Pinocchios for that. That’s just true.

ELLISON: And Jake, they — they were wrong. Jake, Jake —

TAPPER: They were wrong?

ELLISON: I have no — I have not — there — it is untrue, Jake, I'm sorry and, you know, I'm disappointed that that’s why you called me on your show today. 

TAPPER: I didn't. 

ELLISON: You know, because —

TAPPER: That is not why I called you on the show today

ELLISON: — the Supreme Court — 

TAPPER: Yes?

ELLISON: — Jake, the Supreme Court has ruled that the President's ban on Muslims and Muslim countries and which started in his campaign rhetoric, that that is okay and now, Jake, you want me to have to justify myself —

TAPPER: No —

ELLISON: — based on facts that were not true and were always political and so, so — 

TAPPER: What are — the question — 

ELLISON: — that’s a shame, Jake because you can’t —

TAPPER: — the question I had for —

ELLISON: — have a real conversation. 

TAPPER: The ques — it is a real conversation.

ELLISON: You can’t have a conversation about bigotry because — we can't have a conversation about bigotry because you're going to say: “Well, what about you? Did you ever in any way or anyone — know or see anybody who was ever bigoted and therefore, you have no moral standing to claim — to decry bigotry.” Jake, that is just not true. 

TAPPER: I'm not saying that at all. 

ELLISON: And I'm sorry we're having this conversation. 

TAPPER: Well, the question — 

ELLISON: Well, Jake — Jake —

TAPPER: — I had about Farrakhan — 

ELLISON: — I came on here to talk about the Muslim ban. 

TAPPER: I understand that. The question I had for you —

ELLISON: And you’re trying to put me on the spot. It’s not fair. 

TAPPER: The question I had for you, that I've been trying to ask is Farrakhan said, in 2016, you met with him in his hotel suite in Washington, D.C. 

ELLISON: That is a false — that did not happen. 

TAPPER: It did not happen, sir? 

ELLISON: I have been very clear that —

TAPPER: And Farrakhan — Farrakhan’s lying?

ELLISON: — is not true. I’m not saying — I don't know if he's lying or not. I could tell you I was in no such meeting. I was in no such meeting. I've made that clear. You know that, Jake. I have denied this because it’s not true, but here I am, on your show, having to talk about this when the Supreme Court just upheld what the President said was a Muslim ban from the very beginning and I’m — so now I have to defend myself when that is not what the context of this discussion is about at all, Jake and so —

TAPPER: It was just a question I wanted to ask —

ELLISON: — there was no such meeting. 

TAPPER: — you. Okay, well, so Farrakhan’s lying about it. 

ELLISON: There was no such meeting.

TAPPER: That is fine. If you’re telling me that — that Farrakhan is lying —

ELLISON: Well, fine. You —

TAPPER: That’s all I wanted to know.

ELLISON: — look — maybe he is.  But I could tell you this, Jake — Jake I could tell you I was not in a meeting. What somebody’s subjective intent was, I will not speculate. I could tell you I was never in any such meeting as that. It is not true. 

TAPPER: Okay. 

ELLISON: It’s simply not true. 

TAPPER: I wanted to get you on the record about it and that’s all.

ELLISON: And I wrote about this and I wrote about this months ago, Jake. 

TAPPER: In 2017 —

ELLISON: And I think you know that. 

TAPPER: You wrote about it in The Washington Po — [sic]

ELLISON: No, I wrote — no, I was not — I was not in any such meeting with that individual. I simply wasn't.

TAPPER: Okay. 

ELLISON: And you could say lying — I don't know. I mean, I wasn't in the meeting. I could tell you that. 

TAPPER: He says that you and Congressman Carson met with him in the suite in his apart — when he came to visit. You're saying it’s not true. I will take you at your word.  I certainly believe you —

ELLISON: I’ve said repeatedly.

TAPPER: — more than I believe Louis Farrakhan. Okay. The Washington Post fact —

ELLISON: Well I hope so. But I — Jake, this is not the first time I've denied this and I think you know that. 

TAPPER: Congressman, it was just a question. You were talking about the bigotry, in your view, of President Trump, the bigotry, in your view, of this travel ban. I thought it was worth asking about somebody, a bigot, with whom you used to associate though you have distanced yourself and condemned him

ELLISON: No.

TAPPER: — since. 

ELLISON: Jake, Jake, I worked on the Million Man March and I was proud to do so. That's it. 

TAPPER: Alright. Congressman, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

[ELLISON NODS]


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