The domestic-abuse allegations against Rep. Keith Ellison have muddled the Democratic Party’s “believe women” message at a crucial juncture in the party’s bid to sink the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.
After paying scant attention to the month-old Ellison charges, Democrats have watched the issue resurface amid growing complaints that the party has one standard for Mr. Ellison and another for Mr. Kavanaugh, who has been accused by a California woman of assaulting her while they were in high school.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, Hawaii Democrat, was forced to address the issue Sunday under questioning by CNN’s Jake Tapper, two days after Mr. Ellison was grilled during a televised debate about the allegations made by ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan.
“As far as Keith Ellison, these allegations need to be investigated and appropriate action taken,” said Ms. Hirono on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
In fact, there is an investigation, led not by law enforcement but by the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in what has been described as a glaring conflict of interest.
“What the DFL has done is basically a holding pattern,” said University of Minnesota professor Larry Jacobs. “This is not an investigation in the way it’s normally thought of. It’s more like a safety valve in case there are more revelations, and then they have a way of coming back and saying, ‘Yes, our investigation has come up with X, Y and Z, and we’re taking the following measures.’”
Doug Wardlow, the Republican running against Mr. Ellison for Minnesota attorney general, scoffed after Mr. Ellison called it “independent” investigation during Friday’s campaign debate.
“It’s not an independent investigation. It’s [being done] by your friends and fellow party members,” said Mr. Wardlow on Twin Cities PBS. “That’s not an independent investigation.”
Mr. Ellison has denied allegations that he became physical after losing his temper with Ms. Monahan as well as Amy Alexander, whose 13-year-old charges have drawn renewed attention.
At the debate, he accused Ms. Alexander of harassing him and noted that he won a restraining order against her in 2005. He also questioned a 2017 medical document released last week by Ms. Monahan in which she told a clinic that she suffered “emotional and physical abuse” during their relationship.
“Let me tell you, that record was made a year after we broke up, and at a time when she was still, when she was essentially putting together the allegations that she made two days before the [primary],” Mr. Ellison said.
The mounting focus on the Ellison allegations comes with the Senate Judiciary Committee preparing to hear the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, in an appearance that Democrats are hoping will deliver the final blow to the Kavanaugh nomination.
Several Democrats have already said they believe the accuser, despite Judge Kavanaugh’s denials and statements by three others attesting they never attended the party 36 years ago at which the teenage Kavanaugh allegedly pinned her down and groped her.
Ms. Ford had claimed that five people attended the house party in Bethesda, but all four of the others — Mr. Kavanaugh, two men and one woman — said they are unaware of such a gathering and have no knowledge of the allegations.
“I believe Dr. Blasey because she’s telling the truth,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrat, while Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, said last week, “I believe the survivor, Dr. Ford.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Monahan has accused state Democrats of running a smear campaign against her behind the scenes, tweeting, “I’ve been smeared, threatened, isolated from my own party.”
Certainly Republicans have picked up on what they call the Democratic Party’s selective outrage.
“In this era, we’re supposed to believe the woman, right? But not when it happens to one of their own, especially when it’s the deputy chair of the DNC,” said Kevin Poindexter, executive director of the Republican Party of Minnesota.
“Now it’s, ‘Oh, let’s wait ‘til we get all the facts,’” he said. “It’s quite the double standard, and it’s hypocrisy at its finest.”
At the Values Voters Summit on Friday in Washington, D.C., the Family Research Council’s Gil Mertz asked about the apparently nonexistent Democratic support for Ms. Monahan, a Sierra Club organizer.
“Where is Karen Monahan’s support? Where are women standing for Karen Monahan?” Mr. Mertz asked. “Where is the Democratic call for an FBI investigation of Keith Ellison?”
He drove home his point by playing the sound of crickets.
• Seth McLaughlin contributed to this article.