Atlanta (CNN)A top Democratic National Committee leader called the Republican Party "the party of racism" at a conference for liberal activists Friday, pointing to President Donald Trump's positions on immigrants and refugees.
DNC leader says GOP is 'the party of racism'
"You hear Republicans say, 'We're the party of Lincoln.' He wouldn't recognize these people," said Rep. Keith Ellison, a congressman from Minnesota and Democratic National Committee deputy chairman. "The fact is that the Republican Party today is the party of racism. Now I'm not saying every Republican is a racist, but I'm saying their party does hold that up. ... It is the Republican Party in 2017 that says, 'wall them off, ban them out, no transgender in the military.' If it's mean, if it's racist, if it's greedy, it's coming from them."
Ellison was speaking as part of a panel discussion at the Netroots Nation conference, an annual gathering for liberal activists. Ellison was the only representative from the party on the panel, and he made the comments after criticism from fellow panelists of Democrats, especially after the bruising primary fight in 2016 and failure to take control of the White House.
In response to this criticism from progressives of his party, Ellison argued that the Democratic Party was the best vessel of power those on the left have available to fulfill their goals.
"I'm going be with the people who are most likely to win and have policies that are saying we do believe America is a nation of immigrants, we are against racism, we believe in civil rights and we do believe that there ought to be a right to organize and we need to address climate," he said, adding, "You're not going to have perfection."
He acknowledged the Democrats' past of running segregationist candidates in the 20th century, but argued that they were stamped out in the mid-1970s.
Ellison also addressed revelations last year that Democratic Party leaders had favored Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primaries -- a scandal that forced then-Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz from her position -- and vowed that it wouldn't happen again in future primary contests.
"We will be scrupulously neutral," he said. "If you hear the Democratic Party is helping out some incumbent or not playing straight and fair, then I would like to know about it."