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Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone February 21, 2024

Photo of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Keith Ellison is altered; neither supports defunding police

If Your Time is short

  • This photo was altered. The original photo, from a 2022 election event, does not show "defund the police" signs.

  • Neither Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., nor Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has supported efforts to defund the police.

  • Learn more about PolitiFact’s fact-checking process and rating system.

After Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., posted on Facebook about a Minnesota shooting that left two police officers and a paramedic dead, social media users began sharing a manipulated image to claim the senator and another state elected official previously supported defunding the police.

The Feb. 18 fatal shooting happened after a standoff at a Burnsville home, where police responded to a domestic abuse call. Klobuchar posted several times on Facebook expressing sorrow and support for the victims’ families.

A Feb. 19 Facebook post then juxtaposed screenshots of Klobuchar’s Facebook posts with a photo that shows Klobuchar, circled in red, at an event with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is in the foreground.

In the crowded room, three people appear to be holding signs that read, "Defund the Police."

"Amy’s page won’t let me post pictures, so I’m posting here … Klobuchar, Ellison and Flanagan … which is it Amy Klobuchar?????  You never let a tragedy go to waste," the post’s caption read. Flanagan is likely a reference to Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.

This Instagram post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The photo is from a real event that Klobuchar and Ellison attended, but it has been altered to add the "defund the police" signs. Those signs do not appear in the original 2022 image. 

(Facebook screenshot)

Multiple X posts shared the same altered photo of Klobuchar and Ellison. Some of the X posts were tagged with a "manipulated media" label, which X says it uses on "synthetic, manipulated, or out-of-context media that may deceive or confuse people and lead to harm." The label doesn’t identify what was manipulated.

The image from one of the X posts has telltale signs of manipulation. For example, a woman seated in the front holding one of the signs appears to be doing so with a fingerless hand. The two signs in the background don’t appear to be held by any fingers.

Brian Evans, an Ellison spokesperson, said the photo in the Facebook post "is digitally altered."

He pointed us to the original, unaltered photo, shared by Ellison in an Oct. 16, 2022, X post. It was taken at a Get Out the Vote event at the AFL-CIO Midwest Region building in Saint Paul, Evans said.

"It’s worth noting that, in the weeks leading up to the 2022 midterms, numerous altered photos (like this one) were shared online to smear a variety of Minnesota candidates and elected officials," Evans said. 

He provided several examples, including another one featuring Ellison, that used the same image of a cardboard "defund the police" sign.

Klobuchar has not supported defunding the police, said Jane Meyer, the senator’s spokesperson.

"Senator Klobuchar strongly and publicly opposed the defund the police measure in Minnesota, has repeatedly made clear she opposes defunding the police, and is in fact the longtime lead author of the bipartisan bill in Congress which funds police," Meyer said.

Meyer is referring to the COPS Reauthorization Act, which stands for Community Oriented Policing Services and provides grants that fund state and local law enforcement agencies. 

At a 2022 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Klobuchar reiterated her support for funding police, and said she opposed a Minnesota state ballot initiative, later defeated, that would have defunded police. 

"One of the focuses has got to be, as you all know, reforming some of the practices, but at the same time, funding the police," Klobuchar said before addressing questions to the panel’s witnesses. 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks about not defunding the police at a 2022 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. (C-SPAN)

Ellison also has not supported defunding the police, Evans said.

"While the photo itself is fake, the idea it puts forward is false as well," Evan said. "Attorney General Ellison does not and has never supported defunding the police." He said Ellison has supported police and sought ways to reduce the use of deadly force during encounters with police.

Ellison has said defunding police was "never a good idea" and "even worse phrasing," according to the Minnesota Post. He told the Wisconsin Examiner in an October 2023 interview that "‘Defund the Police’ was an emotional reaction to a horrendous situation, but it was not a sound policy prescription." The "defund the police" movement followed the 2020 death of George Floyd, a Black man, after a white police officer pinned his knee against Floyd’s neck for several minutes.

Ellison repeatedly asked the state legislature for additional funding to expand his office’s Criminal Division, beginning when he took office in 2019, Evans said.

Evans said Ellison’s 2022 midterm opponent tried to falsely portray Ellison as supporting defunding the police, pointing to Ellison’s support for a Minneapolis City Charter amendment that would have folded the city’s police department into a larger Department of Public Safety.

That amendment would not have defunded the police, Ellison wrote in an op-ed for the Minneapolis Star Tribune in September 2021.

Our ruling

A Facebook post says a photo shows Klobuchar and Ellison posing at a "Defund the Police" event.

The photo was altered.

The original photo from a 2022 election event does not show anyone holding those signs. Neither Klobuchar nor Ellison support defunding the police. 

The claim is False. 

Our Sources

Facebook post, Feb. 19, 2024 (archived)

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Two Burnsville cops, paramedic shot and killed; gunman dead, Feb. 19, 2024

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Keith Ellison: Let the amendment start a conversation, Sept. 26, 2021

C-Span, Law Enforcement Leaders Testify on Officer Safety, July 26, 2022

Keith Ellison, X post, Oct. 16, 2022

Emailed statement, Jane Meyer, spokesperson for Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Email interview, Brian Evans, spokesperson for Attorney General Keith Ellison

Kare11, NBC affiliate, Attorney General seeks funding for criminal unit, May 6, 2022 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, news release, Klobuchar, Murkowski Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Extend Critical Support for State and Local Law Enforcement, May 16, 2023

Minnesota Post, How policing, police reform became defining issues in Keith Ellison’s reelection campaign, Oct. 28, 2022

Wisconsin Examiner, Q&A with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on stopping police violence, Oct. 30, 2023

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

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Photo of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Keith Ellison is altered; neither supports defunding police

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