Rep. Keith Ellison is denying allegations made public on Saturday that he physically abused an ex-girlfriend.
The allegations were detailed in a Facebook post by Austin Monahan, the son of Ellison’s former girlfriend Karen Monahan. The son wrote that he found a video on his mother’s computer in 2017 that allegedly showed the Minnesota Democrat attempting to drag his mother off a bed while cursing at her.
CNN first spoke with Karen Monahan on Friday and Saturday about social media posts she’d made, some obliquely referencing Ellison. CNN was in the process of reporting the story when her son went public Saturday afternoon. CNN has asked to view the video, but Monahan said she could not produce it.
The charges came just days before a Tuesday primary election in which Ellison is running to be the Democratic nominee for Minnesota’s attorney general. On Sunday, two of Ellison’s Democratic primary opponents, state representative Debra Hilstrom and Minneapolis attorney Matt Pelikan, called on him to respond to the allegations.
Ellison denied the claims on Sunday and said no video of the incident existed because it did not happen.
“Karen and I were in a long-term relationship which ended in 2016, and I still care deeply for her well-being,” Ellison said in a statement. “This video does not exist because I never behaved in this way, and any characterization otherwise is false.”
In conversations with CNN on Friday and Saturday, Monahan, an organizer with the environmental group the Sierra Club, said Ellison was emotionally abusive and on one occasion physically abusive near the end of their relationship in late 2016, prompting her to move out of Ellison’s apartment. She said that alleged physical altercation was the incident her son referred to involving Ellison allegedly pulling her off the bed and cursing at her. Monahan said she discreetly recorded the video on her cell phone and then uploaded it onto her computer.
Monahan said Saturday that she did not know where the video was because she misplaced it when moving. Monahan also said she would not want the video made public in any case, calling it “embarrassing.”
Asked again on Monday about the video, Monahan said she put it on a flash drive and packed it up in her previous home and couldn’t immediately find it because it was in storage.
“It’s not on me to show embarrassing and traumatizing video that impacts both families,” Monahan told CNN on Monday.
Three friends of Monahan, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of backlash, told CNN she had confided in them about the bed incident in the months after she had moved out of Ellison’s apartment.
Monahan also shared with CNN dozens of screenshots of text messages and Twitter direct messages she claimed she exchanged with Ellison.
Monahan provided one text of her mentioning the physical altercation to Ellison in December 2017.
“Keith, We never discussed – the video I have of you trying to drag me off the bed, yelling get the f*** out now, calling me a bitch and saying I hate you bitch,” the text message read. In follow up texts viewed by CNN, Ellison did not directly address the physical altercation.
Other messages viewed by CNN do not specifically show incidents of verbal abuse.
In one, she tells Ellison that she plans to mention him in her book and he says she does not have his permission to do so. Other text messages showed Ellison and Monahan discussing removing her things from the apartment they shared after Monahan moved out. The conversations are at times cordial.
When asked for further comment, Ellison’s campaign referred back to the original statement.
A representative for the Democratic National Committee did not return a request for comment. Ellison serves as deputy chair of the committee.
Monahan said coming forward had nothing to do with hurting Ellison in the primary election.
“People can vote for whoever they feel is the best candidate based on their values. This has nothing to do with that,” she said. “Me sharing my story has nothing to do with the primary election. It is never a good time for a survivor to share their story. If I waited a week later, it would become an issue between a Democrat and Republican.”