‘You know what you did’: Keith Ellison’s ex-girlfriend, Karen Monahan, speaks out

"I know who I am. I know what I was going to go through."

Karen Monahan pictured with her former boyfriend, Rep. Keith Ellison (D). (Credit: Karen Monahan, Facebook)
Karen Monahan pictured with her former boyfriend, Rep. Keith Ellison (D). (Credit: Karen Monahan, Facebook)

Karen Monahan, a former girlfriend of Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison (D) who has accused the congressman of domestic abuse, told ThinkProgress Monday that she did not plan on going public about the texts and the video that allegedly shows Ellison abusing her.

“I didn’t want to mention the video or the texts,” she said. “I’m not here to prove to anyone. I’m just here to share my story.”

The claims of abuse were first made public by Monahan’s son, Austin Aslim Monahan, in a Facebook post Saturday evening, in which he claimed that he saw a video on his mother’s computer in 2017 that showed Ellison abusing his mother while yelling obscenities.

“I found over 100 text and twitters messages and video almost 2 min long that showed Keith Ellison dragging my mama off the bed by her feet, screaming and calling her a ‘fucking bitch’ and telling her to get the fuck out of his house,” the younger Monahan wrote.


Ellison, who is currently running for Minnesota attorney general and faces a primary election Tuesday, denied the allegations in a statement Sunday afternoon, claiming that “This video does not exist because I never behaved this way, and any characterization otherwise is false.”

Monahan released a statement Sunday evening doubling down on the allegations and told ThinkProgress that the she’s not surprised that people have been focusing on the video. She added, speaking about Ellison, “You know this is true. You know what you did.”

“When he [Austin] put that out, and I stand with him … it made everything about ‘well, where’s that, where’s this? It’s become about, ‘she needs to prove, prove, prove.’”

“He had to sit and stay silent,” Monahan said of her son, adding that when he initially saw the video, he texted Ellison and said, “‘I know what you did to my mom. You’re not the man I thought you were.’” It wasn’t until after Ellison reached out to Monahan and inquired about her son’s text, she claims, that her son confronted her about what he saw.

“I convinced him [Austin], ‘please, please don’t text him [Ellison],’” she said. “It was hard because I was trying to take care of my own emotional well-being and my kid’s.”

Monahan said she has been dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder for the past few years.

“It dang near took my life at the end,” she said.

Since the allegations have been made public, Monahan has faced speculation and smears throughout social media. She said that she’s been preparing for it for a long time.


“I know who I am. I know what I was going to go through,” she added. “We aren’t anywhere in society where I wasn’t going to get smeared.”

“As an Iranian, as a woman of color who is an immigrant,” Monahan said, “do you honestly think I’m gonna get validation from a society who’s been telling me since I was young that I don’t have a voice?”

According to Minnesota Public Radio, Monahan shared more than 100 text and Twitter messages between herself and Ellison with the outlet, but MPR said the messages do not contain evidence of the alleged physical abuse.

In a screenshot of a December 2017 text message, which was sent to MPR News by Monahan Sunday evening, Monahan confronts Ellison for the first time that a video exists of the alleged abuse.

“We never discussed — the video I have of you trying to drag me off the bed,” Monahan wrote to Ellison, quoting the abusive language he allegedly shouted at her.

Ellison did not respond to that message or others that followed.

The video has not been shared publicly, and was also not provided to MPR. Monahan’s son told the Star Tribune that he does not have the video he saw last year.

Monahan has been tweeting about the abuse, without mentioning Ellison by name, for more than a year, often replying to Ellison himself.

“I tried to just bury it so I could function and keep working,” said Monahan, who works as an organizer for the Sierra Club. “The MeToo movement happened and that same nagging feeling came back.”

Mohanan said she met with Ellison the night before he decided to run for attorney general.

“He asked if I was going to keep tweeting about stuff and he said, ‘I don’t want to keep looking over my back and wonder what you’re going to tweet … This is my career.’”


“And I said, ‘I’m not the one who did this. You didn’t think of your career, you didn’t think of your constituents,’” Monahan added. “I told him he deserved the time to do what you needed to do to get the help you needed … find some way to have restorative justice … He looked at me and said, ‘I don’t have time to do that.’” Ellison’s office did not immediately respond to ThinkProgress’ request for comment.

This is not the first time Ellison has come under fire for abuse. In 2006, another one of Ellison’s former girlfriends, Amy L. Alexander, wrote a piece in The Wright County Republican in which she claimed “he could explode in a tirade at any moment. He was a little dictator.”

“He grabbed me and pushed me out of the way. I was terrified. I called the police,” Alexander wrote. “Keith began a smear campaign against me that very day … I feared for my life and for the safety of my daughter.”

In 2012, Ellison called his Republican opponent, Chris Fields, a “lowlife scumbag” and a “gutter dweller” during a local radio debate, after Fields accused Ellison of paying a firm hundreds of thousands of dollars to find information about Fields’ divorce. Ellison denied it and responded by saying Fields was “stupid” for bringing it up.

Full disclosure: The writer of this post is a former employee of the National Iranian American Council, where Karen Monahan has served as a volunteer.