MacFarquhar Defends Controversial New Congressman from "Muslim-Bashers"

MacFarquhar dismisses Keith Ellison's past ties to the Nation of Islam and the anti-Semite Lewis Farrakhan, says Ellison is being "attacked on religious grounds."

Reporter Neil MacFarquhar, who covers Islam in America for the Times, on Fridaycelebrates Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress.

During the campaign the Power Line blog took the lead in exposing Ellison's past affiliation with the Nation of Islam and its anti-Semitic leader Louis Farrakhan.

But MacFarquhar, who went to elementary school in Libya and was once the Times' bureau chief in Cairo, disposes of the controversy in two sentences and frames it as Ellison being "attacked on religious grounds."

"The sense of vindication is even stronger because Mr. Ellison was attacked on religious grounds by his Republican opponent, Alan Fine. In September, Mr. Fine said that as a Jew he was personally offended by Mr. Ellison's past support for Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the radical group Nation of Islam.

"Mr. Ellison denied any link to Mr. Farrakhan and reached out to Jews, eventually gaining some endorsements from Jewish groups."

MacFarquhar again portrayed the criticism of Ellison as Muslim-bashing: "Attacks on Mr. Ellison's religion helped galvanize Muslim Americans nationally, with supporters raising money from Florida to Michigan to California." Later in the story, MacFarquhar actually uses the term "Muslim-bashers."

There was much more to Ellison-Farrakhan than that, as Powerline's Scott Johnson wrote in the Weekly Standard last month:

"...Ellison asserted that his involvement with the Nation of Islam had been limited to an 18-month period around the time of the Million Man March in 1995, that he had been unfamiliar with the Nation of Islam's anti-Semitic views during his involvement with the group, and that he himself had never expressed such views. The Star Tribune has faithfully parroted these assertions as facts.

"As a result, the three assertions have become the cornerstone of Ellison's campaign, securing him the support of prominent Minneapolis Jews and the endorsement of the Minneapolis-based American Jewish World newsweekly. Nevertheless, a little research reveals each one of them to be demonstrably false. Ellison's activities on behalf of the Nation of Islam continued well beyond any 18-month period, he was familiar with the Nation of Islam's anti-Semitic views, and he himself mouthed those views.

Johnson has several examples, including this one:

"Ellison first emerged as a candidate for public office in 1998, when he ran for the DFL nomination for state representative as 'Keith Ellison-Muhammad.' In a contemporaneous article on his candidacy in the Insight News, Ellison is reported still defending Louis Farrakhan.

"Anticipating possible criticism for his NOI affiliation, Ellison-Muhammad says he is aware that not everyone appreciates what the Nation does and feels there is a propaganda war being launched against its leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan.

"Ellison says now that he broke with the Nation of Islam when 'it became clear to me that their message of empowerment intertwined with more negative messages.' However, Ellison himself was the purveyor of the Nation of Islam's noxious party line in his every public utterance touching on related issues over the course of a decade."

It's clear where reporter MacFarquhar's sympathies. Check out his fair-and-balanced labeling of Ellison's critics: "Arab news reports highlighted the fact that Mr. Ellison would probably take the oath of office on the Koran, something which also upset Muslim-bashers in the blogosphere. Some suggested it meant he would pledge allegiance to Islamic law rather than to upholding the Constitution."

Back in August, MacFarquhar lamented on Charlie Rose that the United States is sending "Bush's bombs" to Israel.

A recent in-house advertisement in the Times brags that MacFarquhar "brings subtlety and insight to his reporting on a people often portrayed in one dimension." But one dimension - pro-Muslim bias - is all readers get from MacFarquhar's reporting on Ellison's victory.