An African-American Republican candidate for Congress suggested Democrats are reluctant to criticize President Obama's job-creation record for minorities because he is black.
"Are we giving this president a pass because he is black?" Fields asked Ellison, according to Minnesota Daily, which reported the comments on Monday.
Before making the remark, Fields noted that nationwide unemployment for whites is 7 percent, but is nearly double that for blacks. Fields said that given those numbers, "We'd be marching on the White House if the president was white."
Both Fields and Ellison are black, and Fields has made a point of raising race as part of his campaign.
Minnesota Daily reported that Ellison responded by saying it is "reprehensible" that Fields is trying to make it a "racially charged" campaign. "To turn this into a divided race issue is really unfortunate, and I'm sorry you chose to do that," Ellison said.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Fields has produced a video calling on voters to "vote for this black guy [meaning himself], not that one [meaning Ellison]."
The Star Tribune said Fields is part of a Republican plan to run black candidates against black members of Congress, in order to more easily raise race issues. But the newspaper paper also said Fields has argued that he won the GOP nomination not because of his race, but because he was the best candidate.