What Happened in KFAI Studio During Keith Ellison-Chris Fields Debate Fracas

News Director Dale Connelly interceded—physically—between congressman and challenger.

The combativeness between U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-MN) and his Republican challenger Chris Fields is clear in the archived audio of their Oct. 18 debate at KFAI-FM.

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.

Physical Drama
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.

The KFAI debate, co-sponsored in partnership with Mature Voices Minnesota and Patch.com, is not their final debate. The two will meet again Tuesday at the Minneapolis Urban League.


  • REPLAY: Rep. Keith Ellison's Name-Calling Gets Vulgar in Angry Debate
  • AUDIO: Hear the Low Points of Today's Fractious Ellison-Fields Debate
  • Ellison: 'I Acted Beneath My Personal Standard'
Greg Staffa October 19, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Keith Ellison can't be trusted In 2009 I became homeless and started living out of my car. 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.
Greg Staffa October 19, 2012 at 03:41 AM
part 2 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. If Keith Ellison can’t keep his word to a homeless person...... Who will he keep his word to?
B_Schiff October 19, 2012 at 02:23 PM
And, here it is on the World Wide Web. I know... there's a LOT on the WWW, but seriously, this is out there for anyone on the planet to see. I just don't think what I heard should reflect how we do things in America. 'Yes, model yourselves after us'? What I heard sounded like something I've known to happen in other nations where the political process lacks respect. Thanks, Keith and Chris, for embarassing our nation. This really made me sad. You both should be deeply, DEEPLY ashamed.
Randy Horak October 19, 2012 at 11:07 PM
I am embarrassed to be represented by someone who sounds as childish as Ellison does in this debate. Honestly, this guy is in the US House of Representatives?
George Scott October 19, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Michelle Bachman is...
George Scott October 19, 2012 at 11:43 PM
I suspect Mr. Fields has not done his due diligence. He probably heard Rep. Ellison say he WAS a member of House Committee on Foreign Affairs, not I am a member........He was a member in the 111th congress.
Amy Paddock October 19, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Yes, and Greg I have tried to help you. I was a bit surprised that you didn't respond well to my efforts.
Amy Paddock October 19, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Keith was on foreign affairs, and is still active as one of the members that is expected to part take in travels to foreign countries.
Greg Staffa October 20, 2012 at 12:16 AM
Not sure who you are but your more then welcome to email me Greg.Staffa@hotmail.com
Randy Horak October 20, 2012 at 12:39 AM
George, yes, Michelle Bachmann is also in the US House or Representatives...so what?. What does that have to do with Ellison being childish with his behavior in this debate? Many of Bachmann's comments are embarrassing too.
George Scott October 20, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Very...little knowldge about government.
Greg Staffa October 23, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Amy, did not hear back from you. You say you tried to help but I don't know who you are. Your more then welcome to contact me greg.staffa@hotmail.com


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