Ellison, Fields trade verbal blows in KFAI debate

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.

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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.

Listen here:

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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.

  • Chris Correia

    So, the voters are stuck with two seventh graders as candidate choices in this election? Great.

  • michael sampica

    I find it very interesting that Fields brings up the restraining order all on his own and then complains about it. He does his best to act so offended but continues to pursue the personal line of attack anyway. I mean if he was really that upset he would have never brought it up in the first place knowing full well that he was steering the argument in the wrong direction in the first place. Fields had only one motive: stir the pot, get Keith as emotionally frustrated as he could, and make him look bad if he could. Classic case of people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Is this all the Republicans have to run on; I mean really. This guy is worse than Bachman.

  • Mark

    It takes two to tango, and Fields’ statement accepts zero, repeat ZERO accountability for anythying he says in this exchange. He simply goes on the attack again. Classless.

  • Will W.

    Loved Ellison connecting climate change to Katrina and Darfur instability. Keith Ellison is also unstable, as heard on the debate today. If Fields’ comments were out of line, Ellison could have held the higher ground 9and his temper). But he degenerated into a boorish name-caller.

  • brent

    Politicians as macho pro-wresting gladiators!!! I have to say as a dramatic art our political system has made great strides in the last 10 years. (although i think it might be losing some of the substance and/or dignity.)

  • Greg Staffa

    Keith acted this way because they were face to face and he could not do what he usually does, block and ignore.

    I was let go from NWA/Delta Airlines due to weight discrimination. I took it to court and won, but the time the dust settled I was still out of a job and lost my house.

    In 2009 I became homeless and started living out of my car. One of the things that surprised me was as the media attention around my story grew, the number contacting me saying “Contact your politician” increased. People even wrote on my behalf to politicians believing they could make a difference. Most simply ignored the letters and emails.

    Two tough years living out of my car passed and I never had felt so alone. Then one day out of the blue Keith Ellison tweets me saying he wants to meet. WOW. It was the first sign of hope that I had felt in two years.

    Keith Ellison has strong ties to my former employer Delta Airlines. One of his top donors was my old union. I knew based on my contract If my case was reviewed Id get my job back with back pay. I already had the judges ruling all I needed was my contract honored. Back then the Delta merger was going on and I fell through the cracks.

    I felt renewed hope having Keith Ellison reach out to me. I contacted his office as he asked me to do and waited. A few days later his office got back to me saying he was too busy to meet.

    I tweeted Rep Ellison the info his office gave me. His reply was what his office said was “Not True” and that he just needed to find time.

    A few days later…. He Blocked me.

    One of the worst things you can do to a homeless person is fuel them with hope and then take it away. I don’t know why Keith Ellison did not end up meeting me. Maybe he was too busy. But I judge a man by his actions not just his words. Keith Ellison was the one to reach out to me not once but twice. He’s the one who gave me hope. And why for whatever reason he felt the need to block me instead of being a man instead of simply saying he had no time is beyond me.

    Solving homelessness is a huge task. But I firmly believe that if Keith Ellison had invested a small amount time he could have made a huge impact in helping me get my life back. To me what Keith Ellison did is the act of a coward.

    I now have housing but its a shadow of my past life. Getting hurt at work should not cost you everything. A signed contract should mean something. Discrimination of any kind should be viewed as wrong. So where is Keith Ellison.

    If Keith Ellison can’t keep his word to a homeless person…… Who will he keep his word to?

  • Brett Von Schlosser

    you barley scratch the surface of Field’s past and scandals pop out at you, why should i take his word about what happened with his ex wife? or the former staff that’s suing him? what makes him qualified to serve in congress? let alone representing a district he’s hasn’t even lived in for more than 2 years? has anyone seen proof that he actually served in the marines? or that he grew up in the Bronx? nothing about his past adds up, and no one who lives in MN seems to vouch for him. I can’t trust him.

  • Mohinder

    Ellison’s $13’500 pilgrimage to Mecca in 2008 was paid for by the Muslim American Society (MAS) that has ties to

    Islamic radicals and was called an unindicted terrorist coconspiratot by the FBI. MAS is a muslim brotherhood frontgroup according to the FBI. To make things even worse, Ellison first claimed that was not true and only admitted to it later once irrefutable evidence was made public. To top things off, Ellison claimed a few months ago that “I don’t know enough about [the Muslim Brotherhood]… I don’t have any Muslim Brotherhood

    connections that [Rep. M. Bachmann] is talking about.”

    Ellison also thinks the U.S. should try to retrieve Somali Minnesotan men from Somalia who joined the Al Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab and want out.

    If this is they guy the people of Minnesota want them to represent, then I believe you have a serious problem.

    Ellison first allegiance is to islam and only then comes the US and the people of Minnesota.

  • MelissaF

    I am sorry that Keith Ellison reacted to Chris Fileds’ prodding the way he did today, but he has always done what is right for our district and our country and I still support him. More importantly, while Mr. Ellison has apologized, Mr. Fields has continued his ungracious behavior while remaining in personal attack mode. From the beginning of this contest, I have been upset by how Mr. Field’s often imbues the conversation with personal attacks and innuendo -the debate at the State Fare this year clearly exemplified these dishonorable tactics. I agree with Mr. Fields’ that we in the Fifth District deserve a representative who accurately reflects our values, and that is why he will not be getting my vote.

  • Jenny

    Fields can bait Ellison until the cows come home, but I’m not sure what he thinks he’s going to accomplish. Even if the Congressman makes the unfortunate mistake of reacting poorly 100 times, he will still win. A Republican winning the 5th district is about as likely as Romney winning NY. Especially in a presidential cycle.

    Entertaining story though.

  • Jenny

    “Ellison first allegiance is to islam and only then comes the US and the people of Minnesota.”

    Even if one were to take your personal opinion on this as indisputable truth, how does that make him unique? There are plenty of christian lawmakers who frequently and proudly tell us that their faith is their first priority, and govern accordingly. Islam is a religion, not a terrorist organization. If he were to put God before country, he certainly would not be the only member of congress to do so.

  • Jim Spensley

    Keith Ellison’s populist agenda and his motto “Everybody Matters” intensely represents his progressive District.

    Keith cares and he leads the small but important Progressive Caucus in Congress.

    I was moved by Greg Staffa’s story, but it was a Republican President (Bush) and his Attorney General and Commerce Secretary that approved the Delta/Northwest merger and union-busting that cost Greg his job. It was a Republican Governor who appointed airport commissions who negotiated away Delta and Northwest jobs and air service in Minnesota after expanding MSP for connecting passengers. It was a Republican Congress and Legislature that left the holes in the “safety net” Mr. Staffa fell though.

    I advised the Ellison campaign to ignore Mr. Shields and his Nixonian and Rovian campaign tactics.

    Let’s accept both candidates’ apologies for inappropriate behaviors in the heat of a public confrontation and move on to the issues.