The ex-girlfriend of Minnesota congressman and top Democratic party official Keith Ellison has accused him of abusing her during their relationship. Ellison, who is leaving his House seat to seek the position of attorney general in his home state, has denied the domestic violence allegations made by Karen Monahan.
Monahan, a 44-year-old environmental organizer who dated Ellison, 55, from some point after his 2012 divorce and until 2016, confirmed accusations made against the congressman Saturday in a Facebook post by her son, Austin Monahan. In the post, Austin Monahan accused Ellison of putting his mother through “pure hell” during their relationship and said he found video of Ellison screaming and abusing Karen Monahan during an argument.
Ellison, who is also the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, issued a statement on Sunday, saying, “Karen and I were in a long-term relationship which ended in 2016, and I still care deeply for her well-being. This video does not exist because I never behaved in this way, and any characterization otherwise is false.”
After Ellison released his statement, Monahan tweeted support for her son’s claims, writing Sunday afternoon, “What my son said is true. Every statement he made was true. …(Keith Ellison) you know you did that to me. I have given every opportunity to get help and heal. Even now, u r willing to say my son is lying and have me continue to leak more text and info just so others will believe him for you to get help and heal. Told u that would be what I would could consider a Just ending to this hell my family and I have been through. I said that the night before u announced ur run 4 AG.”
Ellison’s primary opponents have also spoken out about the accusations, calling for a response from Ellison and an investigation. The primary is scheduled for Tuesday. Ellison is facing four opponents for the Democratic nomination and he remained in the race as of Sunday night. A father of four, Ellison is in his sixth term in Congress and was named deputy chairman of the DNC in 2017. The party’s chairman, Tom Perez, has not commented about the accusations.
Ellison’s ex-wife, Kim Ellison, said in a statement, “We may be divorced, but we are still a family. I want members of our community to know that the behavior described does not match the character of the Keith I know.”
Karen Monahan has released a lengthy statement about her accusations that you can read here.
Here’s what you need to know about Karen Monahan:
1. Monahan’s Son Says a Video He Found on Her Computer Shows Ellison ‘Dragging’ Her off a ‘Bed by Her Feet’ & Calling Her a ‘F*cking Bitch’
Karen Monahan’s son, Austin Aslim Monahan, wrote a Facebook post on Saturday, tagging Ellison, his opponents in the Democratic attorney general primary and members of the Minnesota media, which led to Ellison’s statement about the accusations.
In the post, Austin Monahan wrote, “My brother and I watched our mom come out of pure hell after getting out of her relationship with Keith Ellison. For several months we knew something wasn’t right and couldn’t figure it out. When we asked our mom if everything was ok, she told us she was dealing with some stress and would be ok.”
He said in 2017 he found a video and text messages on his mother’s computer that unveiled details about her relationship with Ellison. He wrote on Facebook that the video showed, “Keith Ellison dragging my mama off the bed by her feet, screaming and calling her a ‘f*cking b*tch’ and telling her to get the f*ck out of his house. The messages I found, were mixed with him consistently telling my mom he wanted her back, he missed her, he knew he f*cked up and we wished he could do things different, he would victim shaming, bully her, and threaten her if she went public.
Austin Monahan continued:
I met up with my mom that night and asked her what happened. She said nothing happened until I told her I saw a video and hell of a lot of messages saying something different. She finally talked. My brother and I were so angry and hurt for our mom. We were ready to go public but our mom begged us not to and she along with others convinced us it wasn’t in our moms best interest.
I saw message after message through out all that time, where my mom was telling him she wasn’t going back to him but still saw his humanity and offered restorative justice. I honestly don’t see how she would offer him that, but thats her choice.
Sitting all this time, watching what our mom went through and not being able to say or do anything was hard as hell. None of you know the hell our family has gone through. I don’t think half of you would even care. We watched her so called political friends stand by say or do nothing. People had an idea what happened and never reached out to my mom. The same people who are posting about social justice are ready to smear my mom, protect a person who abused her and broke the law. You think we give a sh*t about a politics when we saw what our mom went through? She may not matter to none of you, but she is our mom, our kids grandmother and she is actually someone. There is a lot more he has done to my mom and others that we saw in the text but our mom can decide if and when she wants to tell the world that part.
Whether we saw the video or read all those messages, we still would have believed her if she had told us. #Ibelieveher
Ellison has denied the abuse accusations and said the video does not exist. Austin Monahan told the Star Tribune, “I only know what I saw and I know what’s true. It was my job to stand up for my mother. I have no reason to tear down this man.” He told the newspaper he does not have the video that he saw in 2017. When contacted by a reporter, Karen Monahan said she was not ready to talk to the media, saying she was focusing on her family and children, according to the Star Tribune. “This is a really difficult time,” she told the newspaper on Sunday.
In his post, Austin Monahan said:
My mom has always tried to protect me and my brother. She doesn’t have to protect us anymore and we aren’t letting her stand alone. When we found out our mom was planning on sharing her story, that is all we needed to hear for us to share ours and stand with our mom. You want to smear someone, try to lie about a person who didn’t do shit to deserve the ongoing emotional, physical abuse, smear me and my brother.
I use to believe the Democrats were the ones who would stand by a person who went through this kind of abuse, now I know both Democrats and Republicans could care less when it comes to violence toward women and girls.
I have learned a lot about how patriarchy has shaped me as a 25 year old through all this. I just became a father and I am working on how patriarchy influenced thoughts ad decisions I have made as a young man so I can teach my son better. I am starting today by standing with my mom, my sons grandma. It is not just on women and girls to speak out, it is on men to do some of the emotional work. I’m not here to prove sh*t to anyone, I’m just stating facts. You can take it or leave it.
Karen Monahan did address the Facebook post on her Twitter account. She wrote, “That is my son who bravely shared that post. He isn’t lying about anything. This has nothing to do with trump or politics to us. It is about abuse and the person just so happened to be a politicians.”
She also tweeted, “My kids found over a year of text and video of the abuse on my computer. They confronted him in a text. He text me about it & played the victim. No remorse toward what my kids must be feeling. Abuse impacts the whole family.”
2. She Has Been Tweeting at Ellison & About Her Accusations for Several Months & Talked About Being a Domestic Violence Survivor on a Local TV Show
Karen Monahan has been tweeting about being a victim of abuse for more than a year, including several messages directed toward Ellison, but none of those tweets mentioned him by name or accused him of anything. Last week, Monahan indicated she was ready to go public. “I will be breaking my silence & share my story about a person in power who I endured narcissist abuse from,physical, emotional, etc #metoo #timesup,” she tweeted on August 8.
On August 7, she tweeted, “Would it be justice to vote for someone who was racist or participated in violence toward women in his personal life, as long as he voted the way you like in his elected official position?”
On July 12, she tweeted an image of a shirt with the names of domestic violence survivors on it and wrote, “Women Rights? Look closely at the names on the shirt. Yup, mine is right along with so many women who have beed domestically abused. We are organizing, sharing our stories and providing support and resources for others to heal as well. Where do U stand on this issue?#MeToo” In another tweet that day, she wrote, “I amazed at how politicians can gaslight so many people, use issues that truly impact peoples lives and yet be a totally different character in private. Power, admiration and attention is a powerful desire if left unchecked.”
In a July 9 tweet at Ellison, Monahan wrote, “My kids, job, health, finances, humanity was deeply impacted by the abuse you are well aware of. My agency and sovereignty was taken from me. I offered restorative justice & that offer was tossed to the side. 1&1/2 yrs, running away, denying & victim shaming. It’s not going away. … You have been talking about running for US Senate for a while now Keith. Climbing the ladder is something you have always had your eye on. You discuss protecting women, yet you say nothing about domestic abuse. Protecting women means living those values in your private life.”
In December 2017, Monahan appeared on a local TV show hosted by Ahmed Tharwat to talk about the #MeToo movement and her own experiences with domestic violence and abuse. You can watch that interview below:
During the interview she said, “There so much shame associated with this. A lot of times, it’s like, ‘I’m not going to speak out because I know I’m going to be shamed, minimized, invalidated, and isolated’ … Think about the power dynamics with elected officials. They have a built-in staff that’s paid to protect them.”
She did not name Ellison during that interview.
In a June 2017 tweet to Ellison, Monahan wrote, “Does this include domestic violence, narcissist abuse? My videos, recordings, messages & others who have shared what they have been told, tell us different.Our human lives don’t seem to have value. #MeToo”
3. Monahan Gave Minnesota Public Radio Records of Her Text Messages With the Congressman & Posted Some of Those Messages on Twitter
Karen Monahan gave records of her text messages to Minneapolis Public Radio News as part of its investigation into her accusations, the news organization reported Sunday.
“More than 100 text and Twitter messages between Ellison and Karen Monahan, shared by Karen Monahan and reviewed by MPR News, show the two communicating after their breakup for months, coordinating her getting her things from his house,” MPR wrote. “The tenor of the conversation at times was friendly, with the two acknowledging concern and care for one another, and at other times more combative over the terms of their break-up and the emotional pain Monahan said he caused her.”
According to MPR News, one of the text messages from Monahan was informing Ellison she planned to write about their “journey” in a chapter in a book about her life. He told her, “Horrible attack on my privacy, unreal.”
Monahan also tweeted some of the messages she says she exchanged with Ellison. You can see those below:
In her statement to Fox 9 News, which you can read in full here, Monahan wrote, “After a several years of being in a relationship with Keith Ellison, It became clear, I had survived narcissist abuse. Unless you have been through narcissist abuse, it is the most difficult form of abuse to articulate. It leaves survivors (if they survive) with serious health impacts, complex ptsd, depression and so many other devastating impacts. It is a slow insidious form of abuse. You don’t realize it is happening until it’s too late. Now that I understand it and have done so much healing, I can look back at certain moments and experiences in this relationship and they now make perfect sense. I or nobody else can diagnose a person with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). But I am well aware of the traits and I witnessed each one of them.”
She added, “I have offered him restorative justice and for him to seek some sort of help for over a year and half. He would not take me up on it. I told him I have not lost sight of his humanity and he deserved to take that time for himself to heal. I told him time and time again, I didn’t want to share my story publicly, it was more important for healing and restoration to occur with this situation. I told him not only he deserved it, but his family and constituents deserve it as well. For me, that alone would have been justice as far as my situation. But no matter how many times I offered, he wouldn’t take me up on it.”
4. She Has Worked as an Organizer for the Sierra Club & Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota for Several Years After Graduating From Metropolitan State University
Karen Monahan has worked as a community organizer for several years at the Sierra Club and at Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota. Social media profiles for her and Ellison show that they have now each other for many years, often working on the same issues and supporting the same causes and candidates. Public records show that they shared an address in Minneapolis from October 2015 until their break-up. Both of their Twitter accounts show them together in several photos and Monahan was pictured in a news photo with Ellison’s family celebrating after President Obama was re-elected in 2012.
Another photo shows her with Ellison and the Obamas at the White House:
According to her bio on GreenforAll.org, Monahan completed the Wellstone Fellow Program in 2006 and began working for EJAM. She graduated from Metropolitan State University with a degree in the Social Science/Urban Teacher Program, according to the biography.
“She is currently an Environmental Justice statewide organizer with the Sierra Club and advocates for fair treatment and meaningful involvement of communities of color and low-income communities in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulation, and policies for the purpose of eliminating minority health disparities,” the website states.
She has worked as an environmental justice/senior organizer on its Beyond Clean Coal Campaign at the Sierra Club North Star Chapter since 2007, according to her Linkedin profile.
Monahan was inspired to get into environmental activism by Ellison, she told EarthJustice.org in 2014:
I was in school with the hopes and dreams of becoming a school teacher at some point. I wanted to teach in the inner-city and I wanted to learn about the community that I would be teaching in, so I took a class about development in the inner city. Congressman Keith Ellison, who was a state representative at the time, spoke to the class about environmental justice issues. He discussed lead, mercury and other contaminants I had never heard of. I asked how they affected kids and their learning. I wanted to know and understand more and that is when I began volunteering with a group called Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota.
I feel we leave so many folks out of the conversation because they just don’t know how air pollution affects them. We speak in a language that is often technical and leaves folks feeling inadequate to be at the table. But folks can understand asthma, cancer, health care, education, etc.
Monahan was profiled by The Root in 2009 for her efforts to expand the green movement in Minnesota. The site called her a “Green Collar Hero.” Monahan told The Root, “When we take care of the ecosystem, it takes care of us. Being green is about taking care of each other, and understanding there’s enough for everyone.”
Monahan has worked on efforts to raise awareness about how environmental hazards disproportionately impact communities of color. At an event moderated by Ellison in 2014, Monahan said, “We know that communities of color bear a disproportiante burden when it comes to climate pollution. We want to make sure that our communities are representative in the carbon rules.”
According to the Sierra Club website, “She served as a co-chair of the subcommittee on workforce education and training with Senator Mike Jungbauer (R) for the Minnesota Green Jobs taskforce in 2008. Karen is a Green For All Fellow and Wellstone Action Fellow. Karen is also the Ambassador for Minnesota representing NIAC (National Iranian American Council). Karen is currently teaching a sustainability class at the U of M. She is also the director for the Urban Heat Island program at the Science Museum of Minnesota.”
5. Monahan Asked That Anger Over Her Accusations Not Be Directed at Her 2 Sons & Tweeted That Her Granddaughter Inspired Her to Speak Out About Her Experiences
Karen Monahan took to Twitter after her son’s post gained attention to defend him and call for those angry by the accusations to respond to her, not to her family.
“I am so proud of my son for his courage. But this situation impacted me. If you have anything to say, please say it me and leave him out of it. No nasty comments to him,” she wrote. “I shut down my Facebook 2 days ago because I didn’t want my kids seeing post people were posting to me. I really can’t activate it now cause will be worse for them. My son is getting bullied on FB, DO NOT BULLY MY KIDS. tweet to me and leave them out of it.”
Karen Monahan also posted a photo of her granddaughter on Twitter and wrote that she was inspired by her to share her story. “This little girl is who I owe my loyalty to, not a political party, candidate, the sheep who follow without question. Nope, this little girl is why I must and will share my story,” she wrote.
In her statement to Fox 59, which you can read in full here, Karen Monahan wrote, “I was not the only person impacted by this situation. My kids were also impacted. I tried to hide it from them for several months. They knew something wasn’t right with me when they came to visit but were not quite sure. I told them I was just dealing with depression, that I would be ok. That is until they were using my computer and found substantial evidence showing that I was in an abusive relationship. Imagine how your own children would feel if they found out someone abused their mother. I could barely care for myself much less deal with their pain. They wanted to confront him and ask him why, they wanted to make it public and I had to plead with them and tell them it wouldn’t be good for me, if they did that.”
She added, “They did (send) him a text stating they knew what he did to their mom and few other words. I couldn’t stop them from doing that. They also were in shock to watch friends and people who they knew who were part of the political world, sit back and be silent. They watched people who were aware, never reach out, ask if it was true, there were even people willing to find dirt and smear me, all to protect him. That is cruel to do to any human. Regardless of what a person has or has not done, doesn’t mean they deserve abuse. We see this happen in our criminal justice system everyday. Watching all this, was a wake up call for them, as far as politics and the real world. When things like this happen to a person and family, the last thing they are thinking about is a political party or who is using their pain for political points.”