What Happened in KFAI Studio During Keith Ellison-Chris Fields Debate Fracas
News Director Dale Connelly interceded—physically—between congressman and challenger.
That was matched by the physical tension in the room, according to others who were in the small radio-station studio.
At one (low) point, KFAI News Director Dale Connelly put himself bodily between the two political rivals.
Ellison issued a statement of apology after the debate.
Here's what happened, according to KFAI staff and volunteers interviewed shortly after the hourlong debate Thursday:
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.