During a radio debate, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., called his Republican opponent Chris Fields a “scumbag,” twice called him a “lowlife scumbag” and for good measure called him a “gutter dweller” too.
Ellison and Fields were about 37 minutes into a debate on local station KFAI FM when Fields accused Ellison of paying a company almost a quarter of a million dollars to dig up dirt on him and later referenced Ellison’s own recent divorce. Fields was reacting to recent local media reports that his ex-wife had once sought a restraining order on him. Ellison angrily responded that he had not done the snooping.
Then it got really nasty. Ellison told him: “You’re real stupid for bringing up your domestic violence allegations. I wasn’t going to say a thing about it… You are a scumbag. You’re a massive… You are a lowlife scumbag. You are a lowlife scumbag. You are a gutter dweller.”
Ellison later apologized for his words in a press release, but not his characterization of his opponent, saying three times that Fields had made false statements:
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.
Fields slammed Ellison after the debate in an interview with MinnPost.com:
“This is a guy who cannot work with people on the other side of the aisle,” he said. “Calling me a lying scumbag? Seriously? The issue is, there is my divorce, and there is his divorce. I don’t want to talk about anyone’s divorce, and I don’t think he does either.”