Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) on Thursday called his Republican opponent a "lowlife scumbag" and a "gutter dweller" during a radio debate that devolved into an invective-filled fight over each of their divorces.
About 37 minutes into the debate on KFAI-FM radio, Republican candidate Chris Fields accused Ellison of paying a firm $240,000 to dig up information on Fields's divorce. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported it was recently discovered that Fields's ex-wife sought a restraining order against him in 2006.
Ellison responded by saying he did not pay anyone to dig up dirt on Fields, and said Fields was "stupid" for raising this issue.
"You're really stupid for bringing up your domestic violence charges," Ellison said, as Fields accused Ellison of shorting his own ex-wife on child-support payments.
Fields also charged Ellison with trying to hurt the feelings of his ex-wife, whom the Republican said he still loves.
"You're a scumbag," Ellison said as Fields continued to talk. "You're a massive ... you are a lowlife scumbag. You are a lowlife scumbag. You are a gutter dweller."
Minutes later, Fields's remarks about Ellison's recent divorce prompted Ellison to warn Fields, "My daughter is in the next room. I'm using a lot of self-control right now, sir."
Shortly after that, the station took a short break to allow both candidates to cool down. But when the debate resumed, both candidates could still be heard fighting.
"I told you I didn't have anything to do with it!" Ellison yelled, which prompted another musical interlude. They were later able to return to talk about the less inflammatory topic of climate change.
Earlier in the debate, Fields said Ellison had lied about being on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which prompted Ellison to say Fields himself was lying.
"You want to talk about who's a liar? You're the liar," Ellison said. "You lie all the time. You have no respect for the truth. Anything you say is suspect."
According to MinnPost, Fields said after the debate that he is fine with not talking about either his divorce or Ellison's.
"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."
MinnPost said Ellison later apologized for the incident.
"In response to my opponent's false statement, I made an uncivil reference to him," Ellison said.
"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."
Ellison, who is seeking a fourth term in the House, is heavily favored to win reelection.