Without Reservation, We Support Keith Ellison
We are women and gender nonconforming who are longtime progressives and DFLers who, like many Minnesotans, have been troubled by the accusations of abuse that Rep. Keith Ellison’s former partner of six years, Karen Monahan, has made against him. Like many women, some of us have our own histories of being survivors of assault. We have watched with awe as the #metoo moment has transformed the conversation about abuse in this country and has created an environment where women are breaking their silence, speaking their truth and telling their stories.
We have felt it important to listen to Ms. Monahan’s story as well, and we have. As we have listened, we have also had trouble reconciling the Keith Ellison we have known for many years — a fierce fighter for and a staunch ally of women, LGBTQ folks, people of color and indigenous people, family farmers, low-income people, and anyone treated unfairly by big money and corporate special interests — with the portrait that Ms. Monahan has painted of him and the allegations of abuse that she has leveled at him. For this reason, we have been anxious to hear the results of the independent investigation into Ms. Monahan’s claims.
The report of that independent investigation is now public: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4952674-Keith-Ellison-Investigation-Report.html). The investigation finds that the allegations of physical abuse that Ms. Monahan has made against Keith Ellison are unsubstantiated. It paints a picture of a volatile relationship, and a long, messy breakup, but no abuse on Keith’s part.
Some of the findings of the report that we have found important and persuasive are that:
· There is no independent evidence that the incident of abuse Ms. Monahan has described took place.From the investigative report:
o “Ms. Monahan claims to have videotaped the alleged incident. Mr. Ellison flatly denies the alleged incident and has said the video could not exist because he did not engage in that behavior.”
o “According to [Ms. Monahan’s son] Austin Monahan, the video is almost two minutes long and ‘showed Keith Ellison dragging my mama off the bed by her feet.’But based on Ms. Monahan’s description of the alleged incident, it is unclear what was recorded for two full minutes…Ms. Monahan does not allege she was dragged off the bed.”
o “Mr. Monahan’s account of what he viewed on the video at least appears inconsistent with the actual conduct alleged.But neither Austin Monahan, nor Justin Monahan who was also said to have viewed the tape, would make themselves available for an interview to explain and potentially clarify these possible discrepancies.”
o “In her public interviews, Ms. Monahan has provided different reasons for not releasing the video. She has stated that it was misplaced, that it is too embarrassing and traumatic, that it is on a flash drive packed away in boxes in storage, and that she should not have to prove that she is telling the truth. I offered to view the video privately but Ms. Monahan ultimately refused to allow me to see it.”
o “Also supporting Mr. Ellison’s denial of the allegations is the fact that Ms. Monahan left at his home a notebook with her personal notes made on January 2, 2017.… The journal does not mention the alleged incident of physical abuse. … She also writes, ‘Keith is a good person and I know this from my core. I have no place to judge him because I have done the same thing.’”
· There is no pattern of abusive conduct by Keith Ellison.From the report:
o “In 2006, another woman, Amy Alexander, accused Mr. Ellison of grabbing her and threatening her. Mr. Ellison denied those allegations. At the time, the Star Tribune investigated the allegations, including interviewing witnesses identified by Alexander, but the paper was unable to corroborate her claims. A court granted Ellison a restraining order against Alexander in June 2005 based on allegations that she was harassing him, and denied a similar request by Alexander. Several facts uncovered during the Star Tribune’s investigation called into serious doubt the credibility and motives of Ms. Alexander.Given the lack of reliability around the twelve-year-old allegation by Ms. Alexander, issues relating to that relationship or her allegation were not considered and thus do not support any suggestion of a pattern of conduct.”
o “Mr. Ellison’s ex-wife, Kim Ellison, publicly stated, ‘I want members of our community to know that the behavior described does not match the character of the Keith I know.’I interviewed Ms. Ellison and she firmly stated that Mr. Ellison had never engaged in any abuse, physical or otherwise, ‘before, during, or after’ their twenty-five-year marriage.”
· The allegation is unsubstantiated.From the report:
o “Mr. Ellison was credible in his denial of the allegations and truly seemed not to recall the incident ever happening.He presented as sincere in his shock, hurt, and disbelief that Ms. Monahan would make these allegations against him.”
o “Mr. Ellison painted a convincing picture of Ms. Monahan as being suspicious, questioning, and aggressively accusing him of lying and cheating. … Mr. Ellison believes Ms. Monahan could not accept that he moved on to another serious relationship so quickly…He feels this jealousy and belief that he was not faithful to her is motivating the current allegations.”
o “A mutual friend who had talked to both parties understood the breakup to be ugly and messy. Another mutual friend who has known both parties for years said she had seen Mr. Ellison be ‘crabby and dismissive’but never exhibit uncontrolled anger or rage. Kim Ellison denied that he had ever engaged in any physical abuse during their 25-year marriage.”
o “I asked Ms. Monahan to allow me to view the videotape and assured her I would not share the tape with anyone or release it publicly.As I told Ms. Monahan, the withholding of a videotape that she has affirmatively represented to exist as proof her allegations necessarily creates doubt around her allegation. … Ms. Monahan ultimately refused to show me the video…”
o “An allegation standing alone is not necessarily sufficient to conclude that conduct occurred, particularly where the accusing party declines to produce supporting evidence that she herself asserts exists. The accusing party’s statement must be evaluated in light of the available evidence, including the accused party’s response, a credibility assessment of both parties and any witnesses, and corroborating evidence if it exists.”
o “That the accusing party claims to have but refuses to provide key, dispositive evidence that the accused has flatly denied, causes me to conclude that the allegation is unsubstantiated.”
In this investigation (as well as in other public accounts — for example, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/30/us/keith-elllison-karen-monahan.htmland https://naomikritzer.com/2018/09/29/election-2018-attorney-general— it is clear that Keith is trying to navigate a difficult breakup, maintain a good relationship with his former partner, be an effective member of Congress, and move on with his life — as all of us have tried to do as relationships have ended in our lives. Adifficult breakup is not abuse.
We know how painful it is when women who come forward with stories of abuse are not believed, and we are glad that we are having a national conversation about that. At the same time, this investigation also leaves us with serious concerns aboutMs. Monahan’s repeated attacks on Keith’s current relationship.From the report:
· In the journal dated January 2, 2017, “Ms. Monahan mentions … MH specifically and says ‘I will not take her to a back alley and box the living shit out of her old ass.’”
· “On December 31, 2017, Ms. Monahan wrote a letter to MH, Mr. Ellison’s current girlfriend. In that letter, Ms. Monahan told MH that she had ‘impacted [Ms. Monahan’s] personal life journey,’ she questioned MH’s motives for interjecting herself into Ms. Monahan’s relationship with Mr. Ellison, and stated that MH had not considered Mr. Ellison’s well-being and how he and his family would be ‘hurt and negatively impacted’ by her actions. ‘But you didn’t take into account. You thought of your needs, what you wanted, your desires and it didn’t matter who you hurt.’”
· “In March 2018, Ms. Monahan sent Mr. Ellison copies of texts she claimed were from her friends making derogatory comments about MH’s age and appearance.”
We also have grave concerns about the timing of Ms. Monahan’s allegations, coming just three days before a contested primary. From the report:
· “The timing of the public release of Ms. Monahan’s allegations is also a factor that must be considered in assessing the credibility of the parties. Ms. Monahan’s son posted the allegations regarding Mr. Ellison three days prior to the primary election, inevitably creating suspicion as to the motive behind the disclosure.In his August 11 post, Austin Monahan tagged Debra Hillstrom, Mr. Ellison’s opponent in the Attorney General primary, which could suggest some political motive.”
· Ms. Monahan“admitted Mr. Ellison’s filing for Attorney General triggered her decision to move forward with publicizing her story.”
Our concerns on this point are frankly more serious than the understated tone of the report. The timing of Ms. Monahan’s allegations, her retaining a Republican attorney who is a former supervisor and active supporter of Keith’s opponent, and her apparent willingness to be used by and possibly collaborate with right-wing, sometimes Islamophobic media, strongly suggest that these allegations have become politically as well as personally motivated.
It’s important to note that this investigation was conducted by attorney Susan Ellingstad, a partner in the noted and respected Minneapolis law firm Lockridge Grindal Nauen. Ms. Ellingstad is a partner of the firm who heads its employment law department. She conducts independent workplace investigations in response to workplace complaints. Even Ms. Monahan’s Republican attorney has said in the media that Ms. Ellingstad is a “good lawyer” from a “very good law firm,” and that he likes her “very much.”
It’s also important to us that unlike when most powerful men are accused, Keith did not shout down his accuser or demand we ignore her — rather, Keith welcomed and fully and willingly cooperated with this independent investigation. While we have wanted to hear Keith’s story from him, we also understand and respect why he has largely kept silent about the details of this relationship: because he wanted the investigation to continue independently, and because he did not want to contribute in any way to shutting down the #metoo conversation, even in legitimate self-defense.
And even though this independent investigation has found the allegations of abuse unsubstantiated, Keith has nonetheless requested that the Ethics Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives conduct a second investigation.
Even as a handful of craven politicians seek to exploit Keith’s race and religious beliefsas reasons to question him, he has insisted we listen fairly and find out the facts — not cover them up.
These actions leave us with the unmistakable impression that Keith has nothing to hide.
This is the Keith Ellison that we know.
We find the report of this investigation, conducted independently by a respected attorney experienced in investigating claims like these, to be persuasive. As a result, we can say without hesitation or reservation that we believe Keith committed no abuse toward Ms. Monahan. As a result, and that we support Keith fully and wholeheartedly in his campaign for attorney general.
It is critically importantthat now, every progressive, every DFLer, and every person who believes that people matter more than corporations work as hard as possible over the next month toelect Keith Ellison our next Attorney General. Both because of who Keith Ellison is and what he will fight for, and because of who his opponent is and how he would put impose Trump’s agenda on people and communities we care about.
For his entire career in public life, Keith has stood for the principle that has become his signature: everybody counts, everybody matters. Now Keith is asking us to make him the “People’s Lawyer.” As our attorney general, Keith will:
· Increase access to affordable health care, by defending the Affordable Care Act and coverage for pre-existing conditions, holding drug companies accountable for skyrocketing drug prices, and cracking down on opioid manufacturers;
· Fight for a fair economy for all, not just those at the top, by fighting for a $15 minimum wage and protecting workers’ rights, ensuring women receive equal pay for equal work and are protected on the job, and holding student-loan providers accountable for high rates and fees; and
· Protect civil rights and equal opportunity throughout Minnesota, by fighting Trump’s efforts to remove protections for Dreamers and our immigrant neighbors, defending all Minnesotans against discrimination and harm, and protecting our older and vulnerable adults from fraud and abuse.
And in the sharpest possible contrast, Keith’s opponent Doug Wardlow has openly pledged to promote Trump’s agenda in Minnesota. He would tear down to everything that Keith — and we — have fought for. He would repeal the Affordable Care Act and its coverage of preexisting conditions, he would let corporations get away with fraud, abuse, and polluting our environment, he would suppress the right to vote by pursuing Trump’s false claims of “voter fraud,” he would side with corporate special interests over workers, he would threaten the hard-won rights of LGTBQ people, and he has said that attacking a woman’s right to choose would be a priority in his office.
What’s even worse is that Wardlow is trying to hide his true, radical right-wing agenda by masquerading as a moderate who will simply enforce existing law. We cannot let him get away with that lie.
And so we are left with a clear outcome and call to action — the allegations against Keith are unsubstantiated, and it is time we do everything we can without hesitation or reservation to elect Keith Ellison our next Attorney General.
Abena Abraham, Shoreview
Shay Berkowitz, Fierce truth speaker, Minneapolis
Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter, Saint Paul
Roann Cramer, Progressive activist, former DFL Senate District 61 chair, Minneapolis
Rev. Laurie Eaton, Pastor, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church ELCA, Minneapolis
Emilia González Ávalos, Minneapolis
Emily Marie Buehler, Justice and Peace Studies Faculty, University of St. Thomas, Mazeppa
Roxanne Givens, Minneapolis
Andrena Guines, Project management consultant, DFL State Central Committee member, CD4, New Brighton
Betsy Hodges Former Mayor, Minneapolis
Shirlynn LaChapelle, RN, BSN, PHN, SNP, President, Nursing is the Answer!
Connie Lewis, Community activist, Saint Paul
State Representative Rena Moran, Saint Paul
M. Kathleen Murphy, Women’s rights advocate, Saint Paul
Lori Bergland Olson, Farmer, Thief River Falls
State Senator Patricia Torres Ray, Minneapolis
Phyllis Wiener, Social justice activist, Minneapolis