Hannity, Rep. Ellison Go One-on-One Over Muslim-American Congressman's Fox News Comments

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," April 20, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison is just one of two Muslim-Americans serving in Congress. Now, since taking office, he has had his fair share of controversy. And last year while outrage was spreading all across the country over the proposed Ground Zero mosque, Congressman Ellison made an outrageous comparison and he even lashed out at Fox News.


REP. KEITH ELLISON, D-MINN.: In 1955, you know, we declared that Rosa Parks, a black woman, who had the right to sit anywhere on the bus she chose to. Now, some people might say, well, you know, Mrs. Parks, you are making people feel uncomfortable, the good citizens of Montgomery don't feel comfortable with somebody like you sitting near them. So, why don't you just go to the back even though you have the right to sit up front?

Now, you know, hopefully from a 2010 perspective, we would all, you know, be shocked at such an attitude. But that is exactly the attitude that is being expressed regarding this project.

You know, you listen to Fox News, that station is 24/7 trying to excite and divide Americans along religious lines scapegoating the Muslim community. But, you know, and this is sort of a well-worn right-wing tactic.


HANNITY: Now more recently Congressman Ellison's testimony during the hearing on the radicalization of Muslims in America caused a stir with when he told the story of a Muslim-American paramedic who died on 9/11.


ELLISON: Mr. Hamdani has bravely sacrificed his life to try to help others on 9/11. After the tragedy some people tried to smear his character solely because of his Islamic faith. Some people spread false rumors and speculated that he was in league with the attackers because he with was a Muslim. But it was only when his remains were identified that these lies were exposed.


HANNITY: And I sat down with the congressman to discuss these comments and much more.


Congressman, welcome to the program. Your first time.

ELLISON: Glad to be here, Sean.

HANNITY: All right. I want to go back. There's been a lot of issues. And I've followed a lot of the statements that -- you've made a lot of controversial statements since you've been congressman. Let me give you one example, you said for example, you were calling the New York City mosque foes or opponents of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf bigots and birthers, and you made a comparison to Rosa Parks. Can you give us some details as to why?

ELLISON: Well, I'm not sure what you are referring to. But I will say that many -- some of the opponents of Park 51 in fact, did say some things that I thought were intolerant. And that I'm one who believes in religious tolerance in our country. And I believe that people of all colors, all faiths and all backgrounds ought to be able to pursue their first amendment rights and their right to freedom of expression.

But, the fact is Sean, many of the people who opposed the Park 51 were people who did that on the basis of good faith, some weren't. And I called them out on it.

HANNITY: Well, you actually called out Fox News, you said, in a BBC interview, you said that I think if you listen to Fox News, the station 24/7 is trying to insight and divide Americans along religious lines, scapegoating the Muslim community. And this is a sort of well-warned right-wing tactic. Can you give me your specific example?

ELLISON: Well, you know, Sean, I tell you, you know, you do the show, you know what you guys broadcast all the time. I mean, I stand by the statement. I will say this Sean, that, you know, look, I came on your show because you invited me here to talk about the issues. And perhaps, this is a moment when we can really delve down into the substantive issues that we either agree or disagree on.

But, you know, to dive into a bunch of quotes about you said this about us and explain why you said it, I mean I have had disagreements with some of your reporting Sean. And I don't apologize for it.

HANNITY: Alright. Congressman, but in fairness, though --

ELLISON: Hang on. But I am straight up enough to come on your show, to talk about the issues, to try to talk them through. Now, if you are telling me that you guys are going to try to be a little bit more even-handed when it comes to dealing with issues of religious tolerance, I welcome that. I'm for that. I think that's actually a good step. And I thought that by inviting me here, that's what you were trying to do. But I didn't really come on the show to get in a big debate with you about every quote I've ever made.

HANNITY: Congressman, you said about this network, this is an incredible charge, this is a charge of bigotry. You said Fox News --

ELLISON: Sean, I heard with what you said.

HANNITY: Wait, wait, wait, I'll give you a time uninterrupted. I'll give you a time uninterrupted. Don't interrupt. I'm going to quote you.

ELLISON: Sean. Sean.

HANNITY: You said Fox News 24/7.

ELLISON: No matter how many times you repeat it --

HANNITY: -- is trying to insight and divide Americans along religious lines, scapegoating the Muslim community. I want one example, give me one.

ELLISON: Sean, I think -- I think -- one example is that after the hearings that Peter King did, you referred to -- you talk about every time you talk about terrorism and radicalization, you always attach the word Muslim to it or Islamic. And that particular connection, I think that's unfair. I mean, I think that terrorism is --

HANNITY: That's unfair?

ELLISON: -- all Americans. No, let me finish, because you asked me now that I'll answer you. I think that terrorism is a scourge. It is something that all Americans are against. We all stand against Al Qaeda. But when you only associate radical and violent extremism with one religious group, I think that's too bad and I think it's unfortunate.


ELLISON: So, there's your one example, Sean.

HANNITY: And the 9/11 commission report says that they were, meaning radical Islamists, those that are involved in Jihad, those that kill in the name of Allah, those that think 72 virgins await them in heaven, those that have perverted a religion, radical Islamists, they said --

ELLISON: I am against those people. I stand against those individuals.

HANNITY: They are at war with us and we are not at war with them. So, my question to you is, are we at war with radical Islam?

ELLISON: Those people are -- we are at war with violent extremists who would kill Americans and some of them people might be Muslim, they might be white supremacists, they might be people who would kill at abortion clinics. They might be of any description.

HANNITY: So we are at war.

ELLISON: We don't stop at one particular group. We are trying to protect Americans from any violent extremists, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, any kind. That's what I think is the right position.

HANNITY: Alright. I have another question for you. Because staying on the issue of the 9/11 mosques. Let me ask you, Imam Rauf said that the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened on 9/11. He also said Usama bin Laden is made in the USA. And he also said that America needs to be more Sharia compliant. Do you agree with him?

ELLISON: No, I don't agree with that position. I don't -- to tell you the truth, I don't know what he said. But what you said that he said, I don't agree with.

HANNITY: "60 Minutes."

ELLISON: I don't agree with the quotes you just read. I believe that Usama bin Laden is a criminal who should be arrested and should be held accountable for what he did. I don't think that innocent Americans who are killed on 9/11 had any blame whatsoever in their fate. And I stand opposed to anybody who thinks so.

HANNITY: All right. Because I'm glad to hear you say that because you were calling the foes of the mosque bigots. And I found his statement so over-the-top and bigoted in and of itself. And I'm glad to hear you say that.

Let me ask you as we move on --

ELLISON: Sean, let me say, I didn't call all of the opponents of Park 51 bigots. Some were, many were not.

HANNITY: You made a comparison.

ELLISON: There were people who had legitimate beliefs that were against that effort. But, you know, what? That's America. We all have a right to our difference of opinion. There were some individuals who I believe expressed extreme intolerance and I stand by that.


HANNITY: And coming up, more of my interview with Congressman Keith Ellison coming up after the break.


HANNITY: And welcome back to "Hannity". We continue now with more of my interview with Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison.


HANNITY: I've interviewed Peter King many times about these hearings that he's doing. And you gave a testimony there. Michael Chertoff said he has zero doubt that he knows for a fact that there are those that believe in the radicalization of Islam, that are here in America.

For example, you know, we've heard some from controversial Imams. We know there's recruiting going on here. We have the nation of Islam with Louis Farrakhan. Does the nation of Islam bother you at all?

ELLISON: Well, that's not an organization I'm associated with. Let me just tell you this --

HANNITY: I'm asking should we investigate them?

ELLISON: I mean, I think we should investigate people where there is probable cause to believe they committed a crime. Now, that's with what I believe. As a person who practiced law for 16 years, I don't think even if you don't like what people are saying, that you should call the instrumentally of the criminal justice system down on them. You need evidence of a crime to investigate people in a criminal justice conduct text, Sean.

I mean, I don't think that -- I think that that's why we have a Constitution. That's why the Fourth Amendment says that there should not be searches unless there's reasonable basis for it and unless it is an emergency that needs to be a warrant issued by a judge.

I mean, so, I'm one of those who believes in the Constitution, just saying let's investigate this person or that person just because I don't agree with their philosophy, that is not something I go along with. I'm more of a constitutionalist, Sean.

HANNITY: Yes, I'm a constitutionalist too.

ELLISON: I don't go in for the --

HANNITY: But the problem is.

ELLISON: You and I must agree that we wouldn't just investigate a group because we don't agree with them.

HANNITY: The problem is --

ELLISON: We got to have more than that. Would you agree with that, right?

HANNITY: The problem is --

ELLISON: Wouldn't you agree with that?

HANNITY: If you let me finish, I'm going to give you an answer, relax. The problem is that, if we have radical Islamists that believe in Jihad as a means of achieving their goals and they're in America and our Homeland Security secretary said, so, and Peter King wants to investigate to check into it, it seems like a reasonable thing in light of 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11. I want to ask about your testimony though specifically.

ELLISON: Let me say -- can I say -- Sean, can I say this, let me say one thing --

HANNITY: We're running out of time. I want to ask you about Hamdani because, his remains were, you talked about him in the hearing and you got very emotional.


HANNITY: OK. There's been a lot of criticism that you took that story out of context. That in fact, there was if, maybe one or two or three reports that had been critical of him. But the Patriot Act mentioned him by name. And in fact talked about what a great hero he was.

Were you misleading the American people by saying that he had been attacked viciously?

ELLISON: Of course not. The fact is, is that, you know, I talked with his mother, I talked with his family, I talked with people who knew him and loved him. And I can tell you without a doubt that they were very much agreed about some of the rumors that some people, not all, were throwing around about him after they didn't know he was alive or dead.

So, all I've tried to do is humanize a guy who gave everything for his fellow country man and woman. I was actually surprised that some people, including you Sean, had such a negative emotional reaction when all I did is try to talk about a guy who was a hero, you can't deny that there were some people who are throwing rumors, negative rumors about him. And so, I don't know why you are so upset.

HANNITY: He was singled out and praised in the Patriot Act.

ELLISON: Which is good.

HANNITY: You led the American people to think there was widespread public criticism of him. I'd ask you to show us because I could only find two articles that cite what you say. Two. So, do you have any more, send them me because I don't see them and our own patriot act praised him for his courage.

ELLISON: No, wait a minute. Are you going to let me respond?

HANNITY: Yes, go ahead.

ELLISON: Are you going to let me respond?

HANNITY: Go, go, go relax.

ELLISON: Do I get to respond?

HANNITY: Yes, you're responding.

ELLISON: What I'm saying is -- what I said is that there were rumors that his family was very aggrieved about that were associating him with the attackers. They upset the family, they upset the community that that young man happened to be from. And I talked about that. And I also talked about how when his remains were discovered, that he was redeemed. His reputation was restored.

Now, I don't know what the big problem is, Sean. I'm highlighting a contribution of a heroic American. I don't think --

HANNITY: I agree. And our country is right to do so. Because it was the right thing to do.

ELLISON: But I would think that you would join me in saying that those rumors, even if you think there were only a few of them, that those rumors weren't fair.

HANNITY: I agree. I just said, it was the right thing to do.

ELLISON: Don't you agree with that? Don't you agree with that?

HANNITY: What part of me saying it was the right thing to do to praise him --

ELLISON: So what is the argument about?

HANNITY: You were saying that there was widespread condemnation.

ELLISON: That was exactly what I was saying. That was exactly what I was saying. I said -- No, no, Mr. Hannity, people told nasty rumors about him. You know that's true. I don't know why you are fighting me on this.

HANNITY: I'm not fighting you. That's not what I'm saying.

ELLISON: You should condemn the rumors and praise the American who died for other Americans, why won't you join me in this?

HANNITY: All I want is, I did. I already did.

ELLISON: Wait a minute.

HANNITY: I already did.

ELLISON: To the family.

HANNITY: Yes, you're not listening.

ELLISON: To the family, Sean. What do you say? What do you say to the family?

HANNITY: I've got to run, we're going in circles here. Let me say one last thing to you. I say, I am sorry for your loss. Listen to me. I'll give you an answer. I'm saying.

ELLISON: To the family who suffered the rumors, what do you have to say?

HANNITY: You don't want the answer. I'll give you the answer.

ELLISON: Do you say that that was too bad?

HANNITY: Hello! I'll give you the answer.

ELLISON: I'm listening.

HANNITY: I say, I am sorry for your loss.

ELLISON: Me too. We agree.

HANNITY: I am sorry and I am also -- your son was a hero and I am glad this country recognized him for his courage, which they did in the Patriot Act, by name, which does not happen very often, it was beyond well deserved just like the firefighters and the policeman and the paramedics. And the only thing I want this country not to do Congressman, and this is where maybe for future discussion.

ELLISON: We have no disagreement on this issue.

HANNITY: I do not want our 9/11 Commission report said we, they were radical Islamists were at war with us. We must identify them. You seem unwilling to identify radical Islam as being at war with America, I don't.

ELLISON: No, I am willing to say that radical Islamists attacked America.

HANNITY: No, re at war with America.

ELLISON: Look, OK, fine they are at war with America.

HANNITY: Thank you.

ELLISON: Al Qaeda is at war with America. No, wait a minute. Al Qaeda is at war with America, but Al Qaeda not the only enemy of America. They are not the only violent extremists.

HANNITY: I didn't say that. I didn't say that.

ELLISON: I would ask you to stop trying to make it like only Muslims are the problem.

HANNITY: I didn't say that.

ELLISON: Our country has to protect from many sources.

HANNITY: I said radical Islamists are at war with America. I'm quoting the 9/11 Commission report. They were at war with us. We had to engage them because if you go back to the embassy bombing, Kenya, Tanzania, USS Cole --

ELLISON: I said Al Qaeda is at war with our country.

HANNITY: If you go back to all other examples and we -- the first Trade Center attack, we ignored their attacks on us.

ELLISON: Sean --

HANNITY: In the name of God --

ELLISON: Sean, relax, I said Al Qaeda is at war with America. I stand opposed to Al Qaeda. I stand absolutely opposed to the efforts to radicalize Americans.

HANNITY: Perfect, then we'll end on that note.

ELLISON: I stand absolutely opposed to them and I think we should stand together on that.

HANNITY: All right, Congressman, thank you. I hope you come back and see us again.

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