What We Need to Know About the Keith Ellison Abuse Allegations

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Keith Ellison was the U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district. He has served as the Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee since 2017 and is a vice-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He is a Chief Deputy Whip and also serves on the House Committee on Financial Services. He was the first Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress and the first African American to have been elected to the U.S. House from Minnesota. Most recently, he won the Democratic primary for the position of Minnesota Attorney General. Ellison is also one of the most recent politicians to be hit with abuse allegations. 

During Ellison’s campaign for Minnesota state attorney general and shortly before the 2018 primary elections, the politician was publicly accused, via social media, of verbal and physical abuse by ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan. The accusations include an incident in which Monahan said that Ellison dragged her off a bed while shouting obscenities. In August of 2018, Monahan claimed to have a video of a physical altercation between herself and Ellison, and she turned over 100 text messages to MPR News. Following a review of the messages MPR News stated, “There is no evidence in the messages reviewed by MPR News of the alleged physical abuse.” 

In a statement, Ellison acknowledged a relationship with Monahan but denied committing any abuse. He reaffirmed his denial of the allegations in a television interview with WCCO. The nature and timing of Monahan’s accusations attracted significant media attention. While the scandal didn’t appear to hurt Ellison’s primary chances (he led his nearest opponent by more than 30 percentage points), it could significantly impact his chances of winning the general election.  

In its first statement on the allegations against Ellison, the DNC said, “These allegations recently came to light and we are reviewing them. All allegations of domestic abuse are disturbing and should be taken seriously.” Neither Nancy Pelosi nor Bernie Sanders, key Ellison allies, have commented on the accusations and subsequent investigation.