Once a favorite to replace Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) now faces conveniently timed allegations of abusing his former girlfriend, Karen Monahan. Karen’s son, Austin, made the accusation via Facebook just a few days before the primary. Ellison has denied that the incident ever occurred, and it remains to be seen how this will affect the election.
Rep. Ellison is in his sixth term as a U.S. congressman and is looking for a new opportunity a little closer to home. Until the accusations of abuse, he was the frontrunner in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s (DFL) primary for Attorney General, as the current one, Lori Swanson, hopes to replace Governor Mark Dayton.
Swanson faces fellow DFL hopefuls Erin Murphy and Tim Walz in the Tuesday, August 14 primary. If Victorious, she’ll face one of two Republicans, Jeff Johnson or Tim Pawlenty, in November. To fill the vacant AG office, Ellison will have to defeat Tom Foley, Debra Hilstrom, Matt Pelikan, and Mike Rothman of the DFL Tuesday, then face either Bob Lessard – a former Democrat – or Dough Wardlow in November.
Austin Aslim Monahan took to Facebook Saturday night to speak out about the hell his mother went through living with Keith Ellison. He allegedly saw a video that showed Ellison cursing at his mother and trying to yank her off the bed by her feet. There was more abuse, he said, but he plans to leave that up to her to disclose if she so chooses.
Ellison admits that he was in a long-term relationship with Karen Monahan, but denies that he ever mistreated her. Ellison says that though their relationship ended in 2016, he still cares about her. The video, he says, doesn’t exist because he never acted that way, and that “any characterization otherwise is false.”
Karen Monahan confirms that the video does exist, but has thus far refused to let anyone see it. In an interview with MPR News, she revealed that she never intended the public to know about it. “It’s humiliating, it’s traumatizing, for everyone’s family involved, and for me,” Monahan said. However, she’s also frustrated that people won’t just take her at her word.
“It sets the expectation for survivors of all kinds of forms of abuse, whether it be abuse toward women, abuse from police officers, abuse from other people in power, to have to be the ones, like I’m doing right now, to show and prove their stories. It’s feeding into that.”
Of course, what she and so many other alleged victims don’t seem to realize is that the burden of proof is always on the accuser. That’s just how our system of justice is supposed to work. If a crime occurred, there should be evidence of it. If you have irrefutable evidence – like this tape, for example – then you are obligated to show it if you want anyone to believe your accusations.
She did give MPR access to over 100 texts and Twitter messages, showing that she and Ellison communicated for months after the breakup. Sometimes the discourse was friendly, with both acknowledging that they still care for each other. At other times, it was more confrontational. There is, however, no evidence of this physical abuse in these messages.
One exchange, according to MPR, shows Karen Monahan telling Ellison that she plans to write about their “journey” in her book. Ellison allegedly warns her not to, and calls it a “horrible attack on my privacy.” She did send a text in December 2017 addressing the alleged video, but Edison didn’t respond.
Keith’s ex-wife, Kim Ellison, came to his defense, saying that the alleged behavior did not match the character of the Keith she knows. Yet this isn’t Ellison’s first accusations of abuse. In 2005, Ellison took out a two-year restraining order against Amy Alexander, a Democratic activist who had accused him of abusing her. She said they met in 1993 and started their extramarital affair shortly after.
Ellison denied ever having been involved with Alexander or having been to her house or assaulting her. In 2006, Ellison’s lawyer dismissed Alexander’s claim as an attempt to blackmail the campaign.
Did Keith Ellison physically and emotionally abuse Karen Monahan? That’s the question. From the released messages and the break up itself, it’s clear they had a rocky relationship – at least toward the end. But abuse? The only evidence are the claims of an angry son and a video that may or may not even exist. That – along with the timing – make this accusation suspect.
On the other hand, while Karen apparently planned to write about their relationship in her book at some time in the vague future, she claims to have had no intention of revealing the abuse now. In truth, it was her son who made the allegation, not her; she just confirmed it. That separates this case from the standard accusations that tend to crop up around election time. If she wanted to destroy his candidacy, why not do it herself?
As for the video, it’s entirely understandable why Monahan wouldn’t want it public information. Her description of events – which we must assume the video, if it exists, supports – show that she was terrified by a level of rage from Ellison she had never seen before. This video would show a woman already submissive out of fear of her life being yanked about and yelled at viciously. Why would anyone want the world to see them at such a vulnerable moment?
But unless Monahan does decide to share that video with someone who can verify it to the rest of the world – whether that means making it public or not – we cannot assume that Ellison is guilty. As much as many may not care for his politics, no one should deny him the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Perhaps the real question is: Will it matter to the voter? We’ll find out after the ballots are all returned Tuesday night.