Since 2007, Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District, which includes Minneapolis, has been represented by Keith Ellison, a Muslim with ties to the Nation of Islam whom many find to be both a duplicitous radical and a bit of a phony. It may be time to add unstable to that list. This race is normally such a snooze of a victory for the Democrats that little about it is covered even by the Minnesota media. This week it was covered by the likes of Washington DC's The Hill and Mediaite. Why? Because during Thursday's radio debate with Republican challenger, Chris Fields, the Congressman said this about his opponent, who is also an African American.
"... You are a scumbag. You're a massive... You are a lowlife scumbag. You are a lowlife scumbag. You are a gutter dweller."
Fields had accused Ellison, who has been fined for campaign finance irregularities in the past, of using campaign funds to dig up and publicize a domestic relations order from Fields' 2006 divorce. He then suggested the recently divorced Ellison had issues of his own relating to a far more recent divorce, specifically why Ellison was only paying $500 a month in child support for his four children.
A local news site Fridley Patch reports on what happened next in the KFAI studios.
As the debate took a personal turn, Ellison rose from his chair. Fields remained seated. The men were wedged about three feet apart in a corner of the tiny studio.
Moderator Ahndi Fridell went to one of two planned breaks as the men shouted at each other.
Connelly was in the hallway as things got heated and entered the studio to check in.
'This Isn't Helping'
"I was taken aback by what was going on," he said. Ellison's lips were trembling with evident anger. "I felt I needed to get in between them physically," he recalled "'This isn't helping either one of you,' I said."
An attempt to go back on-air after the scheduled break was short-lived. At some point with Connelly separating him from Ellison, Fields also rose from his chair.
"We killed the mics in the room because they would not refocus," said Connelly, an experienced broadcast pro with long service at Minnesota Public Radio, who nonetheless said it was the first on-air political debate he's run. "The candidates were not in a position to debate."
As a musical station promo played, Fridell said she asked Ellison and Fields, "'Are you ready to come back on air?' They settled down."
Fridell shifted the conversation to a less heated topic: climate change.
Ellison issued a statement of apology after the debate. The two were scheduled to debate again on Tuesday at the Minneapolis Urban League but the Minneapolis Tribune reports that may be changed.
The moderator is now trying to arrange separate interviews with the candidates, Fields' spokeswoman said.