NYT: Say, perhaps we should talk about this Ellison scandal after all

Give the New York Times credit for picking up the Keith Ellison scandal at all, since the local media in Minnesota has largely remained quiet about it after the first round of reporting. Julie Turkewitz and Farah Stockman deliver an in-depth and nuanced report on the domestic abuse allegations and the questions they raise about due process in the #MeToo era. Given that Ellison also serves as the deputy chair of the DNC, the issue has gone national:

Now, as Mr. Ellison runs for attorney general in Minnesota, Ms. Monahan has accused her former boyfriend of emotional abuse and says he once shouted profanities at her, while trying to drag her off a bed.

Mr. Ellison denies abusing Ms. Monahan and said in a statement after the allegations emerged that he cares “deeply for her well-being.” Democratic Party leaders in Minnesota have asked a lawyer to look into Ms. Monahan’s allegations, but continue to support Mr. Ellison’s bid to become attorney general.

The questions around Mr. Ellison come eight months after Senator Al Franken, another popular progressive leader in Minnesota, resigned amid allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances. Now, Mr. Ellison, a high-profile leader on the left, is fighting for his reputation and facing a tough campaign with an opponent using the abuse allegations against him.

Ms. Monahan’s accusations represent a potentially new chapter in the #MeToo movement in which the allegations against a public figure are not primarily about sexual violence or harassment, but emotional abuse. But the allegations against Mr. Ellison, who declined a request for an interview through a spokesman, are turning into a test among many liberals for where to draw the line between a messy relationship and an emotionally abusive one, and some say they aren’t sure where it is.

In this case, though, there is an allegation of actual violence. Trying to drag Monahan off a bed certainly qualifies as such, and if it’s true, would certainly have seemed violent to the victim. And there is another allegation of domestic violence on the record as well — a 911 call from another former Ellison paramour, Amy Alexander, who went public with her allegation against Ellison in 2006. Although it didn’t get much exposure at the time, this is what Alexander wrote about what prompted her 911 call:

Things really started falling apart at the 2005 MinneapolisDFL Convention at Augsburg College. Many active party workers left the cause that day. It was the most disorganized convention one could imagine. Keith was clearly agitated as I tried to introduce him to fellow delegates that I knew. In retrospect, this would be the beginning of Keith marginalizing me once again. At the convention I asked Keith about the EJAM position. Keith cornered me and in a low angry voice exclaimed “Bitch, you don’t have the EJAM job, I can’t control you anymore.”I was furious with him. Apparently my usefulness to Ellison ended that day. I came undone emotionally and psychologically. I had dropped fifty pounds for him. The diet ended that day.

I continued to organize an event for EJAM at the UrbanLeague scheduled for June of 2005. In May, Keith wanted to try and quiet me so he came to my home uninvited. We had words. His anger kicked in. He berated me. He grabbed me and pushed me out of the way. I was terrified.I called the police. As he fled he broke my screen door. I have never been so scared. I immediately began to second guess myself as many victims of abuse do when at the brink of exposing their abuser. How could I or anyone stand up to the man who had been the local icon of black militancy for almost two decades?

Turkewitz and Stockman did revisit the Alexander case in their lengthy report, noting that Alexander lost in court when both she and Ellison filed for restraining orders. The court ordered her to stop making claims about Ellison, and perhaps that’s why Turkewitz and Stockman were unsuccessful in attempting to contact her. At least they tried to do so, however, and to get answers to the questions now enveloping the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Speaking of the DNC, they’ve been veeeerrry quiet about these allegations. Two weeks ago, they announced their intent to investigate these claims. The Daily Caller followed up earlier this week and got stonewalled:

Two weeks after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced a review of domestic abuse allegations against Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, the public still has scant information about the probe.

The DNC has offered no details on who exactly is running the probe, what evidence they have uncovered or when they expect to have enough information to either affirm or withdraw their support for Ellison.

DNC chair Tom Perez has offered contradictory statements about the nature of the investigation. At first he claimed the DNC would conduct it, but later said that the Minnesota DFL would take charge of their probe. Neither organization has had anything to say since:

A DNC spokeswoman did not return multiple emails seeking comment on the status of the committee’s Ellison investigation.

DFL communications director Ellen Perrault did not return multiple emails, as well as voicemails left on both her office and cell phone numbers, inquiring about the state party’s investigation of the Ellison allegations.

Oddly, the otherwise-comprehensive NYT report never mentions the DNC or its pledge to investigate, and only mentions Perez in the context of winning the chair position over Ellison. It never mentions the DFL at all, which seems like a rather large lacuna in their reporting. If one is interested in due-process values relating to these kinds of allegations — and we should all be interested in those — why not discuss the two organizations that are best positioned to provide in-house accountability?

Still, the NYT deserves kudos for its prominent coverage of the Ellison scandal. The lack of response by Democrats to these allegations should pique the curiosity of other news outlets, too, perhaps especially those serving Minnesota voters.