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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.

More:

  • 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'
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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