Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez ran into trouble Sunday after insisting that the party has “never hesitated to take action” on misconduct allegations against Democratic officials, including DNC deputy chair Keith Ellison.
Mr. Perez defended the DNC’s refusal to call for the resignation of Mr. Ellison over his ex-girlfriend’s domestic-abuse accusation, arguing that the Democratic Party has a better record of dealing with such charges than does the GOP.
“What I say is that we should always take those complaints seriously and we do, and that’s why an investigation was conducted, that’s why Congressman Ellison asked for a House Ethics investigation,” Mr. Perez told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “And Democrats have never hesitated to take action, unlike Republicans.”
An incredulous Tapper responded, “Wait a second, Democrats have never hesitated to take action? Do you mean in the last year, or do you mean historically? Because historically, I could go through a list of people.”
Mr. Perez cited the December 2017 resignation of Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota Democrat, over allegations of groping and inappropriate conduct, arguing that “Democrats didn’t hesitate to do something even it was difficult, because it was the right thing to do.”
Mr. Tapper replied, “Oh, you mean like in the last year. You’re not talking about Ted Kennedy or President Bill Clinton or — I only have a couple minutes left.”
Mr. Perez acknowledged that he was only referring to the Democratic Party’s record under his tenure.
“Jake, I’ve been chair of the Democratic National Committee for 18 months,” he said on “State of the Union.”
The exchange underlined the Democratic Party’s ongoing dilemma in backing Mr. Ellison’s bid for Minnesota attorney general even as Democrats push to frame the 2018 midterms as a historic “year of the woman” election.
Mr. Ellison has acknowledged a long-term relationship with Ms. Monahan but adamantly denied her claim that he dragged her from bed and screamed obscenities at her in 2016.
Even so, the allegation has dogged his campaign and left other Democrats vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy for supporting him but not other men accused of misconduct, starting with Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Polls show the congressman, who gave up his seat to run for AG, locked in a dead heat with former Republican state Rep. Doug Wardlow, who has blasted Mr. Ellison over the allegations.
An Oct. 23 survey by the Minneapolis Star Tribune/MPR News showed Mr. Wardlow leading by 7 percentage points, while a KSTP/SurveyUSA poll issued Thursday had Mr. Ellison ahead by 44 to 40 percent.
The Star Tribune, the state’s largest newspaper, declined Friday to endorse either candidate, saying they were both “too partisan to hold statewide office.”
Mr. Perez pointed to an investigation commissioned by the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party that was unable to substantiate Ms. Monahan’s claim.
Asked if he thought Ms. Monahan was “lying,” Mr. Perez said, “I think Keith Ellison’s ex-girlfriend deserves to be heard and deserves to be treated with dignity and deserves to have a fair and full investigation, and that is exactly what has been done.”
Mr. Ellison has described the investigation as “independent,” while others have called it hopelessly conflicted, given that the investigator was hired by the DFL and works as a law partner of the party’s attorney.
The DFL referred the report last month to the Minneapolis Police Department, which refused to investigate over conflict-of-interest concerns, noting that Mr. Ellison’s son sits on the Minneapolis city council.
Ms. Monahan, a Sierra Club organizer, said last week she has been maligned by other Democrats, telling Fox9 in Minneapolis-St. Paul that she agreed to an interview to combat the “smears and the lies and the bullying.”
“I can tell you that I didn’t walk away from the Democrats. The Democrats walked away from me and my family,” she said.
She has released records showing that she discussed alleged emotional and physical abuse with medical personnel last year, before she went public with the claim, but has refused to turn over what she describes as a video that shows Mr. Ellison dragging her from bed.
Ms. Monahan said she is not emotionally prepared to release the footage, while the congressman has insisted the video does not exist because the episode never happened.
She also denied that her charge made in August was timed to do maximum damage to Mr. Ellison’s campaign, as the congressman has alleged.
“I am not invested in this election at all. I’m not voting in that election,” said Ms. Monahan. “And that’s what I have to say about that.”
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