DFL Rep. Keith Ellison and his Republican opponent Chris Fields traded some heated verbal blows during a debate on radio station KFAI today, resulting in Ellison calling Fields a “low-life scumbag.”
During the debate, the conversation meandered from a conversation about equal pay for women to a restraining order Fields’ ex-wife filed against him in 2006.
Fields accused Ellison and the Minnesota DFL of using campaign contributions to dig up and make public the 2006 order, which Fields says he never received.
“They took that money and gave it to this Washington, D.C. firm and started looking through my divorce. And what they found was a statement that my ex-wife had never given me and she issued a statement saying ‘hey, it was a deeply troubling period,” Fields said.
“You’re really stupid for bringing up your domestic violence allegations,” Ellison interjected. “I wasn’t going to say a thing about it.”
From there, Fields launched into accusations about Ellison’s child support payments.
“You are a low-life scumbag,” Ellison responded repeatedly. “You are a gutter dweller.”
At that point, the debate host tried to steer the conversation to the state’s unemployment rate, but to no avail.
Fields returned to the restraining order and Ellison’s child support.
Ellison, who recently divorced his wife, responded that his daughter was sitting in the next room.
“I’m using a lot of self-control right now, sir,” Ellison said. “I had nothing to do with [finding the restraining order], and you know it,” Ellison went on his voice raising.
Even a 30-second radio break did little to calm Ellison and Fields. When the debate went live again, the two could still be heard arguing in the background.
At that point, KFAI cut the mic and went to music.
The debate wrapped up on a more civil note, with Ellison and Fields talking about public education and the two constitutional amendments on this year’s ballot.
But even then, the two went head-to-head again when Fields implied that Ellison had declined to debate him in front of the Urban League, which Ellison said is a scheduled debate.
“Would you please stop lying to the people!” Ellison said. “This is ridiculous.”
UPDATE: Ellison sent us this statement -
“Today during a radio broadcast debate, my opponent made false statements about an intensely personal family matter. My teenage daughter was present in the next room listening to the debate.
In response to my opponent’s false statement, I made an uncivil reference to him. I should not have done so. I acted beneath my personal standard as a public official, and I apologize.
In the course of this campaign, we have been focused on creating economic prosperity for working families, protecting our constitutional right to vote, and making sure that everybody counts and everybody matters–and yet, my opponent has repeatedly and personally attacked me.
His untrue reference to the terms of my divorce was over the line, but my comment to him was over the line too. His tactics are no excuse for my departure from civility.
I will not allow this to happen again, and I regret my action.”
UPDATE: Chris Fields issued this statement after the debate:
“At a time when we need civility and leadership from Washington politicians Congressman Ellison has proved that he cannot deliver and as a result we all suffer.
Since Ellison has been in office he has pursued a senseless foreign policy agenda, failed domestic policies and pointless legislation such as reparations for slavery. Our campaign has been centered on providing credible and workable solutions for the people of our district.
We have focused on two areas; closing the achievement gap and unemployment gap between blacks and whites. These gaps affect everyone in our district and pose a very real threat to Americans nationwide.
In addition, we are also focused on protecting the most vulnerable among us; our seniors, veterans, the middle class and single parents.”
The Ellison campaign has been engaged in name-calling and various other political games designed to detract attention from Congressman Ellison’s record of failure. This month alone Fields has been attacked as a “liar” dozens of times without provocation or factual justification.
“While I cannot apologize for Congressman Ellison’s violent outbursts, I do believe the voters of the Fifth Congressional District are entitled to a Representative who more accurately reflects their values of people working together regardless of their background or political beliefs. If I elected I will work to continue to build bridges with all communities and provide the focused attention needed to move us forward.
The Fields campaign plans to continue to promote the idea that Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike can do great things when we Come Together.”
You can listen to the entire debate at KFAI’s website.