Fact Check

Did Democrats Elect Four Horrible People?

Criticisms of four 2018 Democratic election winners included in a meme are mostly subjective or unsubstantiated.

Published Nov. 9, 2018

Democrats elected a domestic abuser, a woman who married her brother, a man who hired underage prostitutes, and a woman who is dumber than a salamander.

The morning after the 2018 U.S. midterm elections on 6 November 2018, the Facebook page "Flyover Culture" posted a meme that supposedly showed some of the "horrible" Democratic Party candidates who had just won their elections:

From left to right, this image graphic shows Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bob Menendez, Ilhan Omar, and Keith Ellison. While it's true that all four of these individuals won election during the 2018 midterms, most of the criticisms of them expressed in this meme are subjective or unsubstantiated.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is dumber than a salamander?

While the other three claims in this meme were at least rooted in something from conspiracy theory to news reports, the description of Ocasio-Cortez was nothing more than an ad hominem insult. Out of curiosity, however, we attempted to find the average IQ of a salamander but were unable to unearth any credible studies relating to IQ tests for amphibians.

IQ tests for humans do exist, but it should be noted that they aren't the best method for measuring intelligence. We weren't able to find any credible reports about Ocasio-Crotez' IQ, but it's reasonable to assume that the youngest woman ever to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives is more intelligent than your average salamander (and possibly most meme makers to boot).

Bob Menendez preys on underage prostitutes?

A few weeks before the midterm elections, Menendez' Republican opponent Bob Hugin released an attack ad that resurrected old and unsubstantiated allegations that Menendez had hired underage prostitutes while on a trip to the Dominican Republic:

A million-dollar ad campaign launched by Republican Senate candidate nominee Bob Hugin resurrected the most salacious charges against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez: unproven allegations that he was involved with prostitutes during trips to the Dominican Republic with friend and campaign donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen ...

The ad makes reference to an FBI affidavit that was filed to show probable cause for a search warrant. However, there was never any evidence or confirmation of such allegations, nor were any charges filed in connection with the matter.

This allegation stemmed from an anonymous tip sent to the left-leaning legal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in 2012. The matter was referred to the FBI, but the ensuing investigation found that the allegations lacked credibility:

The tipster, who last spring began e-mailing allegations to a government watchdog group and the FBI, said he had evidence that Menendez had relations with underage prostitutes and participated in sex parties arranged by [Dr. Salomon] Melgen, his friend and political backer.

FBI agents conducting interviews in the Dominican Republic have found no evidence to back up the tipster’s allegations, according to two people briefed on their work.

Menendez has denied the prostitution claims, saying they were made by enemies trying to undermine him as he sought reelection in the fall and became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this year.

Did Ilhan Omar marry her brother?/strong>

This claim has been circulating on far-right blogs since 2016 and stems from an article (which has since been deleted) published on the Somalispot website. This rumor is typically accompanied by the accusation that the Minnesota politician committed fraud by marrying her brother in order to speed up his immigration process.

No hard evidence has ever been presented to show that Ilhan Omar was ever married to her brother, and she has repeatedly denounced this allegation a lie. Omar detailed her marital history to the Minnesota Post in an email and said that the accusation she married her brother was "absurd and offensive":

In 2002, when I was 19 years old, Ahmed Hirsi (whose name before he received citizenship was Ahmed Aden), the father of my children and love of my life, and I, applied for a marriage license, but we never finalized the application and thus were never legally married. In 2008, we decided to end our relationship in our faith tradition after reaching an impasse in our life together.

I entered into a relationship with a British citizen, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, and married him legally in 2009. Our relationship ended in 2011 and we divorced in our faith tradition. After that, he moved home to England. I have yet to legally divorce Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, but am in the process of doing so. Insinuations that Ahmed Nur Said Elmi is my brother are absurd and offensive.

Since 2011, I am happy to say that I have reconciled with Ahmed Hirsi, we have married in our faith tradition and are raising our family together. Like all families, we have had our ups and downs but we are proud to have come through it together.

Claims that Omar is anti-semitic stem primarily from a tweet she made in 2012 that was critical of Israel, and her description of that country as an "apartheid regime":

Omar has denied that her criticisms of Israel are rooted in anti-semitism:

Omar’s tweets about Israel have earned her notoriety in the pro-Israel community. In 2012, she said that Israel had “hypnotized the world” to ignore its “evil doings.” Defending that tweet, she said on the same platform that calling attention to the “Israeli apartheid regime” was not anti-Semitic.

Speaking at a candidates’ forum at Beth El Synagogue in Saint Louis Park, she affirmed her belief in Israel’s right to exist and said she opposed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel.

“It is going to be important for us to recognize Israel’s place in the Middle East and the Jewish people’s rightful place within that region,” she said, according to a report by a local news site, TC Jewfolk.

“I believe right now with the BDS movement, it’s not helpful in getting that two-state solution,” said Omar, who had been endorsed by the [Democratic Farmer Labor party]. “I think the particular purpose for [BDS] is to make sure that there is pressure, and I think that pressure really is counteractive. Because in order for us to have a process of getting to a two-state solution, people have to be willing to come to the table and have a conversation about how that is going to be possible and I think that stops the dialogue.”

Keith Ellison beats women?

In August 2018, the son of Keith Ellison's ex-girlfriend, Karen Monahan, took to Facebook and claimed that he had a video of the Democratic politician verbally and physically abusing his mother. Ellison denied the allegations, and an investigation into the matter found no evidence to substantiate the claim:

An ex-girlfriend's allegation that Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison once physically abused her could not be substantiated because she refused to provide video she said she had of the incident, an attorney with links to the state's Democratic party who was hired to investigate the claims concluded in a draft report obtained by The Associated Press.

The party launched an investigation after Karen Monahan alleged in August [2018] that the Democratic congressman dragged her off a bed by her feet while screaming obscenities at her in 2016. Ellison, also a deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has denied the accusation.

A similar allegation was levied against Ellison in 2006. But again, substantiating evidence was lacking:

In 2006 another woman, Amy Alexander, made similar claims of abuse against Ellison. On that occasion, he denied ever dating her and ended up suing Alexander and successfully obtained a restraining order against her.

The claim that Ellison is anti-semitic primarily stems from his earlier association with the Nation of Islam. Ellison maintained he was never a member of that organization, and he denounced the group in 2006:

The Minnesota Democrat’s Jewish critics cite his involvement in law school with the Nation of Islam, an African-American group that has been described as antisemitic, and his criticism of Israel over the years.

A profile in Mother Jones cited sources claiming that Ellison was once a member of the group — the lawmaker has said he worked with them but was never a member — and clashed with Jewish students in law school at the University of Minnesota.

A spokesman for Ellison told [Jewish Telegraphic Agency] that he was not a Nation of Islam member and that other aspects of the Mother Jones article were false.

Before he became the first Muslim elected to Congress in 2006, Ellison apologized for his involvement in the Nation of Islam and denounced the group.

“I have long since distanced myself from and rejected the Nation of Islam due to its propagation of bigoted and antisemitic statements and actions of the Nation of Islam, [its leader] Louis Farrakhan, and [Farrakhan’s late assistant] Khalid Muhammed,” he wrote in a two-page letter to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas in May 2006 after winning the Democratic primary.

However, Ellison's assertions that he has had no additional involvement with Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan since cutting ties with the group in 2006 have been challenged.


Nillsen, Ella.   "The Abuse Allegations Against Rep. Keith Ellison, Explained.'"     Vox.   14 August 2018.

Goodkind, Nicole..   "Keith Ellison Has a Long History of Controversies, But Can He Still Win His Attorney General Primary."     Newsweek.   14 August 2018.

Hirsi, Ibrahim.   "Ilhan Omar, Marriage, And Somali Culture: an FAQ.'"     Minnesota Post.   8 August 2018.

Leonnig, Carol.   "Escort Says Menendez Prostitution Claims Were Made Up.'"     The Washington Post.   4 March 2013.

Sherman, Ted.   "Furious About Prostitution Campaign Ad, Menendez Calls Opponent 'Slimiest of Slimeballs.'"     NJ.com.   17 October 2018.

Collins, Nick.   "IQ Tests 'Do Not Reflect Intelligence'."     Telegraph.   19 December 2012.

Hess, Abigail.   "29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Makes History as the Youngest Woman Ever Elected to Congress."     CNBC.   7 November 2018.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.