The bigotry targeted against Ellison has been incredible. Dennis Prager kicked it off with a disgusting display and was followed up by Virgil Goode who hasn't backed down. The wingnuts have been eating heaping spoon fulls of Zombie brains. Ellison spoke out against it today.
BLITZER: All right. Let me read for our viewers who may not be all that familiar with what Virgil Goode actually wrote to his constituents back on December 7th. Among other things, he said, "If American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration, there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran."
And you just heard our Brian Todd. He's on the scene. He says Virgil Goode is not backing away from that at all. What's your reaction?
ELLISON: My reaction?
BLITZER: Yes, what's your reaction, Congressman-elect?
ELLISON: Oh, yes, Wolf, I think that, you know, diversity of our country is a great strength. It's a good thing that we have people from all faiths and all cultures that come here. And we all support one Constitution, one Constitution that upholds our right to equal protection, one Constitution that guarantees us due process under the law, one Constitution which says that there is no religious test for elected office in America.
So the document that is the bedrock of our democracy expressly prohibits applying any religious test, and I think that diversity in our nation is a great thing and we should embrace it, not be afraid of it.
Full transcript via CNN:
BLITZER: So if you had a cup of coffee or you sat down with Virgil
Goode in the next several days -- you're going to be coming to
Washington, you'll be sworn in, in the next couple of weeks -- what
would you say to him specifically on his point?
He wants tighter immigration restrictions in order to keep Muslims out
of the country, and if -- because if they're kept out of the country,
obviously, they won't be elected to Congress.
ELLISON: Well, what I'd tell him is that, you know, there might be a
few things about Muslims that he might want to know. He might want to
know that Muslims, there are about five million in the country, that
they're here to support and strengthen America, that they are nurses,
doctors, husbands, wives, kids who just want to live and prosper in the
American way, and that there's really nothing to fear, and that all of
us are steadfastly opposed to the same people he's opposed to, which is
And so there's nothing for him to be afraid of, and that what we should
do is to tell our constituents that we should reach to each other, not
be against each other, and we should find ways for common ground.
I would urge Congressman Goode to have his congregation reach out to a
synagogue or a mosque and start some interfaith dialogue so that we can
increase understanding among each other, as Americans of different
faiths. That's what I'd tell him.
BLITZER: Do you think he's a bigot?
ELLISON: You know what? I don't know the fellow. And, you know, I'd
rather just say that he has a lot to learn about Islam. And, you know,
we all have a lot to learn. I don't know him. I look forward to
meeting him. I'm not afraid of being frank about my views about him,
but I simply haven't gotten a chance to get to meet him so I don't want
to start any name calling.
BLITZER: What's been the reaction, in general, to your election,
making history, becoming the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress,
specifically, your decision that in your personal private ceremony, you
want to be sworn in on the Koran?
ELLISON: Well, Wolf, I'm glad you made that distinction because when
I'm officially sworn in, I will do it the same, exact way as every
Congressperson-elect who is sworn in. We will all stand up and, in
unison, lift our hand and swear to uphold that Constitution.
And then later, in a private ceremony, of course, I'll put my hand on a
book that is the basis of my faith, which is Islam. And I think that
this is a beauty. This is a wonderful thing for our country, because
Jewish members will put their hands on the Torah, Mormon members will
put their hand on the Book of Mormon, Catholic members will put their
hand on the book of their choice. And members who don't want to put
their hand on any book are also fully free to do that. That's the
But I think that we need to not focus on what religious text any
Congress member might want to use. Let's focus on the text that binds
us together. That's the Constitution. That's a great document, and I'm
looking forward very much to raising my hand and swear to uphold that
BLITZER: You know, I'm sure, what the radio talk show host Dennis
Prager said at the end of the November that caused a stir. He said
this, among other things, and I'll read it. "America should not give a
hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. Insofar as a member of
Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is
concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible.
Do you want to react to that?
ELLISON: Well, I think, again, you know, we need to dust off the
Constitution and actually read it. It says specifically, explicitly,
that there is no religious test for elected office. You don't have to
use any book at all.
I think that, you know, if we are going to call ourselves patriots --
and I certainly do -- if we're going to talk about how much we love
America, and Lord knows I do, that we should know that the basis of our
democracy is the Constitution which expressly prohibits the application
of a religious test to hold elected office.
I just think we -- you know, this is an opportunity for us to have a
little civics lesson in America and to help people really understand the
underpinnings of our great country.
BLITZER: You were born in Michigan. You converted to Islam while you
were in college, but you can trace your ancestry back to the 1700s, I
take it, here in the United States.
ELLISON: That's right.
BLITZER: So when you hear comments like Virgil Goode's, I suppose --
you've reacted in all of your public statements, as well as here, really
taking the high road, but I assume inside, it's really irritating you.
ELLISON: Well, Wolf, you know, my reaction, externally and internally
is the same. I can honestly say that I'm not angered by Representative
Goode's comments. I just think it's a learning gap we have to close.
And, you know, it's true that I do find my ancestral roots back in
Natchitoches (ph), Louisiana, Cane River, Louisiana, 1742. I go back --
I'm about as American as they come.
BLITZER: Well, thanks very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM and
giving us your side of the story. Keith Ellison elected to Congress,
making history. We hope you'll be here in person in THE SITUATION ROOM
once you arrive in Washington. Thanks very much.
ELLISON: I look forward to it, Wolf. Thanks again.
BLITZER: Thank you, Keith Ellison.
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