Congressman Keith Ellison is no stranger to controversy or harsh words, having faced years of unfounded accusations over his religious faith. However, during Ellison’s recent debate with Chris Fields, he exceeded all bounds of good taste, calling his opponent a “lowlife scumbag.”
Fields is campaigning for the Congressional seat held by the progressive Minnesota Democrat since 2007. There is a wide political gulf between the two men, with liberal Ellison strongly supporting President Obama’s policies, and Fields saying he will to return America to conservative values, ban abortion, and repeal Obama Care.
The uproar began when Mr. Fields accused Ellison of hiring a Washington, D.C. based research firm to smear him. An article in The Minneapolis Star Tribune claimed Field’s ex-wife requested a restraining order against her husband in 2006 and Fields insisted the Congressman was the source. Ellison took offense to the accusation and replied to the comment by saying, “You’re really stupid. You’re a scumbag. You’re a lowlife scumbag. You are a gutter dweller.”
The mood in the room was poisoned from the start, with Ellison saying on several occasions, “You lie all the time! You have no respect for the truth, anything you say is suspect.” At one point, Ellison claimed his opponent failed to pay his campaign vendors, and during an argument over taxes, the Congressman angrily shouted, “That’s ridiculous, that’s another bold-faced lie. It amazes me that you could sit here with a straight face. I’m not going to deal with you because you’re just silly–really.”
Instead of taking the high ground after the “scumbag” remark, Fields brought up Mr. Ellison’s divorce and suggested the Congressman was not making his child support payments. The two men appeared to be on the verge of blows, when Ellison exclaimed, “My daughter is in the next room. I’m using a lot of self-control right now, sir.” Fortunately, the moderator called for a break, and when the debate resumed, the questions were directed to the less provocative subject of Climate Change.
After the debate, Ellison, who is the heavy favorite to win the election, issued an apology to his opponent:
“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…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.”
Chris Fields served 21 years in the Marines, including two tours of duty in Iraq; retiring last year with the rank of Major. The former Marine was having no part of any apology and used the Congressman’s behavior to press home his belief that Ellison needs to be replaced:
“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.”