AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
A prominent member of Congress has been accused of domestic abuse. Keith Ellison represents Minneapolis in the U.S. House and is the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee. He's running to be Minnesota's next attorney general, and the primary election is tomorrow. A former girlfriend alleges that Ellison put his hands on her and tried to drag her off a bed, an accusation he denies.
We're joined now by Briana Bierschbach of Minnesota Public Radio. She's been covering this story. Hey there, Briana.
BRIANA BIERSCHBACH, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.
CORNISH: So tell us more about these allegations and how they came about.
BIERSCHBACH: Well, this actually first popped up in a Facebook video late Saturday night from Austin Monahan, who's the son - the 25-year-old son of Karen Monahan, who was a former longtime girlfriend of Ellison, you know, which we confirmed through old social media posts and things like that. And he said in 2017, he was looking through his mother's computer, and he saw a two-minute video which he alleged showed an altercation between Ellison and his mother, him pulling her off of the bed. She then later that night confirmed that the video exists on Twitter and then in a statement to us as well.
We've also reviewed hundreds of text messages between the two of them over the years, particularly after their breakup. They go over sort of how she can get her stuff from his house, her pretty raw emotions over the breakup. And there are some texts that allude to her son being upset about something but not specifically saying what and others that say she wants to speak out but doesn't specifically address what.
Late last night, she did send us a text from December of 2017 that said, to Keith Ellison, I have this video. I don't know if you know this. But he never responds to that text message. And that's sort of the latest of what we have. We're one day from the primary. We don't know yet if he's going to speak more on this today or not before the election.
CORNISH: Has anyone actually seen the video?
BIERSCHBACH: Yeah, that's a critical piece of this story that hasn't been revealed yet. Ellison says, look; this isn't true because this video doesn't exist. This never happened. Karen says she has the video, but she doesn't want to show it. It's embarrassing for herself, for her family and for Keith's family specifically. She's also pushing back on this notion that women who are abused need to provide so much evidence, produce a video and have this when he can just deny it flat-out.
CORNISH: Keith Ellison is of course a high-profile candidate in Minnesota's attorney general race, right? How are his opponents talking about this?
BIERSCHBACH: Well, it's funny. This was actually started by one of his opponents. State Representative Debra Hilstrom, who is running for attorney general, circulated Austin's post in a tweet late Saturday night. And by Sunday morning, it had 2,000 shares. And in the tweet, she said, domestic abuse is never OK. Ellison, you need to respond to this. There are four other candidates other than Ellison in the race. Three of them by total on Sunday had said, respond to this. And eventually he did. One even said after the response that it was a #Trumplike denial and that he wants a full-on criminal investigation of Ellison and the allegations.
CORNISH: In the meantime, what has Keith Ellison had to say about all this?
BIERSCHBACH: He's only released a two-paragraph statement to reporters that acknowledged that he was in a long-term relationship with Karen and that he still cares deeply about her. But he said the video doesn't exist because this never happened. And that's all we've heard from him. He hasn't been out on the campaign trail, which is unusual for Ellison, especially one day before the primary.
CORNISH: That's Briana Bierschbach of Minnesota Public Radio. Thanks so much.
BIERSCHBACH: Thank you for having me.
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