Ellison’s campaign hit a serious obstacle on Thursday, when the Anti-Defamation League came out against his candidacy. The ADL was responding to a 2010 speech, in which Ellison seemed to suggest that American policy in the Middle East is driven by Israel. Ellison, who is a Muslim, responded that his remarks were selectively edited, and stressed that his long-standing support for Israel.
Saban took the opportunity to chime in on the controversy at the 13th annual Saban Forum at the Brookings Institution on Friday night. The topic came up briefly in an interview between CNN anchor Jake Tapper and Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Defense Minister. Liberman seemed unfamiliar with the remarks, so Saban stood up during the Q&A to issue a broadside against Ellison.
“The fact that Keith Ellison is a Muslim is a non-issue,” Saban said. “If you listen to Keith Ellison today and you see his statements, he’s more of a Zionist than Herzl, Ben-Gurion, and Begin combined. It’s amazing. It’s a beautiful thing. If you go back to his positions, his papers, his speeches, the way he has voted, he is clearly an anti-Semite, anti-Israel individual. Words matter and actions matter more. Keith Ellison would be a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party.”
Saban, the billionaire chairman of Univision, is a major Democratic donor and key supporter of Hillary Clinton. He once famously referred to himself as “a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.” He made his fortune by leveraging the success of “The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” into a kids’ cable TV network, which he sold to Disney.
Ellison recently addressed his past support for the Nation of Islam, saying he has long ago disavowed the group’s anti-Semitism and apologized for associating with the group.
“I have always lived a politics defined by respecting differences, rejecting all forms of racism and anti-Semitism, a politics based on inclusion, and diverse communities organizing together for economic justice for everyone,” Ellison wrote.