Back in August, the son of a former girlfriend of Rep. Keith Ellison alleged that the Minnesota Democrat had abused his mother in the course of that relationship.
Austin Monahan said he found a video on his mother’s computer showing that Ellison had forcefully tried to drag her off of a bed while swearing at her. Ellison denied the allegations and suggested they were politically motivated — coming just days before Minnesota’s Democratic primary for attorney general.
“Karen and I were in a long-term relationship which ended in 2016, and I still care deeply for her well-being,” Ellison said at the time. “This video does not exist because I never behaved in this way, and any characterization otherwise is false.”
Despite the fact that the story drew national attention — Ellison had become a major figure within the party when he ran unsuccessfully to be the chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2017 — the Minnesota Democrat went on to win the primary days later. (Ellison also serves as the deputy chairman of the DNC below the man who beat him out for the top job: Tom Perez.)
CNN was in the process of reporting the story when Monahan’s son went public with the allegations. CNN has asked to view the video, but Monahan said she misplaced it when moving and provided no other evidence to corroborate her story at the time.
The story went dormant for a few weeks — although Ellison had promised to “talk more about it in the coming days.” That all changed earlier this week, when Karen Monahan began to tweet again about the allegations.
She tweeted this: “Four people, including my supervisor at the time, stated that I came to them after and shared the exact story I shared publicly, I shared multiple text between me and Keith, where I discuss the abuse with him and much more. As I said before, I knew I wouldn’t be believed.”
And this: “I expected everything that has taken place, before I decided to break my silence. I even stated it in my original statement. I showed up for myself & that was a huge piece of my healing.”
And, this: “My grand baby deserves a world where human dignity is not a political tool for your parties interest. #metoo”
The allegations by Monahan have also received a re-airing coming as they do amid accusations of sexual assault from a California professor named Christine Blasey Ford directed at Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The Ford allegations deal with an alleged incident at a party 35 years ago in which she says Kavanaugh laid on top of her and attempted to pull her one-piece bathing suit off. Kavanaugh has categorically denied the charge. Negotiations are ongoing to get Ford in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee sometime next week to tell her story. Kavanaugh has already agreed to testify.
Republicans have cried foul about the coverage disparity between the Kavanaugh allegations and those aimed at Ellison — insisting that the only obvious difference between the two cases is that Ellison is a Democrat and Kavanaugh is a Republican.
Ellison’s campaign has repeatedly refused requests for comment on Monahan’s latest series of tweets. The last press release on Ellison’s campaign website is from September 7 and deals with attempts by Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Polling conducted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio last week suggests that voters in Minnesota want more information about the alleged incident. Almost six in 10 said they didn’t know if they believed Monahan’s accusations about Ellison. A roughly equal number said they believed her accusations (21%) and said they didn’t believe her (22%). Lingering doubts about what actually happened — and whether Ellison is culpable — do seem to be dragging down the congressman; he had a narrow 5-point edge over a little-known Republican in the attorney general’s race in that same poll.
“You know, I don’t think everybody that is accused is guilty,” Janet Olson, an Ellison supporter, told the Star Tribune. “But then again, I don’t know. I don’t know why somebody would say something if it isn’t true, so I’m having trouble with that one.”
It’s hard to see how Ellison can continue to say nothing — or refer reporters back to his initial statement in August — in light of Monahan’s tweets this week, the ongoing uncertainty within the Minnesota electorate and his tenuous position in the AG race. What’s clear is that neither Monahan nor this story is going to go away between now and November 6. Which means for the good of the Minnesota voters — and for Ellison’s political career — silence in the face of these accusations probably isn’t going to cut it.