Chris Fields: I didn't call Keith Ellison a reverse racist in "reverse racism" ad
Now what would give anyone the idea that Fields was calling Ellison a racist?
I wasn't very surprised when I came into work this morning to find I already had three voicemails. Two hangups and one message, all from the same caller: Chris Fields, the GOP-endorsed Congressional candidate running against Keith Ellison.
Early this morning, we published a blog post about Fields's latest attack literature on Ellison, which features a picture of the incumbent congressman next to the proclamation, "Racism is bad." The gist of the ad being that Ellison -- a black Muslim -- practices racially biased politics. Or as Fields calls it, "reverse racism."
In the post, we point out that at least one of Fields's arguments is taken out of context. He implies that so-called reverse racism motivated Ellison and the Black Caucus to walk out on Congress's vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. In fact, it wasn't just Ellison and the Black Caucus. Dozens of Democrats of many races walked out, including Nancy Pelosi. So is Fields saying they are all racists, too?
For the record, I did call Fields yesterday for comment, and he didn't respond. But I presumed he would have something to say about the post after it went live. I called him back right away this morning, and what did surprise me was his rebuttal: He claims he never called Ellison a reverse racist.
Here's how the first part of our conversation went, beginning with Fields's thoughts on the post:
Chris Fields: "It wasn't to my liking, but that's okay, because I don't need to like everything that's written about me. But I just want to point your attention to a few things that are blatantly misrepresented."
City Pages: "In my post?"
Fields: "Yes, in your post. I did not explicitly call Keith a reverse racist. I didn't. I didn't."
CP: "Okay, I'm looking at the ad right now, it says, 'reverse racism.' And there's a picture of Keith Ellison next to it."
Fields: "Okay, it says two words. What about the rest of the words there? I mean, do they count? And I'm not trying to be confrontational here --"
CP: "So you're trying to tell me that you're not calling Keith Ellison a reverse racist?"
Fields: "It says, 'Does Keith--'"
CP: "Yeah, 'Does Keith Ellison practice reverse racism and racial politics?'"
Fields: "You decide. You decide."
CP: "And then you're trying to tell me that in this literature it's not supposed to be answering that question for the people that are reading it?"
Fields: "I'm putting a set of facts out there, just like everybody else. And I'll tell you this much --"
CP: "No, no, no. Let me read another part of this. 'Keith Ellison has a double standard for justice: one for blacks, one for whites. That's just wrong.' I mean, c'mon, you're not gonna tell me that you're not trying to say that he's a reverse racist. Why even introduce the term reverse racism?"
Fields: "Here's the thing, Andy. If we're going to talk about facts -- facts are facts. I said, factually, I did not call him a racist. That's what I'm saying. And then if you want to talk about the actual issue itself, do you believe, Andy, in your heart, mind, and soul, that if Brian Terry were black, and this were the Bush administration, and the attorney general were John Ashcroft -- if those were the cast of players, do you believe that they would have walked out?"
CP: "That's such a tangential, hypothetical question, that I don't even know why we'd be talking about it. You said we're talking about facts, so let's talk about facts. That was not the situation."
We got off on a bit of a tangent at this point, where Fields continued his argument by saying that Ellison helped introduce an amendment in the name of Trayvon Martin, but ignored the death of Brian Terry, the white U.S. Border Patrol agent shot on patrol in 2010.
"By and large, 90 to 95 percent of the country -- Minnesotans -- don't see race as a factor," said Fields. "But that's not how these guys do it. Because you can't stand up for Trayvon Martin's family, and then not stand up for Brian Terry's family."
Okay, but back to the literature:
Fields: "I didn't think your piece was necessarily flattering. I don't think it really spoke to the true issue. I'm not trying to be a bomb thrower, but you know what, we need to have an adult conversation around here with regard to race. And when I see stuff like that, this is despicable. When I see these guys continue to view life through a prism of race, that's not where we wanna go. That's not uniting people."
CP: "Okay, well let me ask you a couple questions. Are you saying...you don't believe he's a reverse racist?"
Fields: "I'm saying these are a set of facts, and people need to decide."
CP: "Okay, but you're saying you --"
Fields: "How do I feel about it? I think -- I know that Keith plays racial politics, absolutely."
CP: "So you do think that he is a reverse racist?"
Fields: "That's a large step. I'm saying that he plays racial politics for his own political gain."
CP: "So you do believe that, and you did put out this ad, but you're saying, this ad is not saying that? This ad is just presenting the question and letting people answer for themselves?"
Fields: "That's correct."
CP: "Okay, let's talk about this specific situation with Holder here. Is Nancy Pelosi a reverse racist too? Are several dozen Congress members all reverse racists?"
Fields: "I believe that they politicized an issue. Tim Walz voted to censure him. What's his deal? Jason Altmire in Pennsylvania voted to censure him. These people are looking at a set of facts, okay, and it's just uncanny."
CP: "Okay, so you're saying that these other people voted to hold him in contempt but not Keith Ellison. But what I'm saying is, several dozen other people walked out, and they weren't all Keith Ellison and the Black Caucus."
Fields: "Okay, you don't have to be black to play racial politics. These guys do it across party lines, and all of them do. What I'm saying is, hey, I'm running against Keith, so I'm not commenting on Nancy. I don't know what Nancy's issues are in life. I'm running against Keith. And what I want to put before the voters here in the Fifth Congressional District is: Is this what we want? Is this what we want? Right has to be right at the end of the day, and that's got to be bipartisan."
CP: "Okay, but the point I made in my post is, your statement here is saying Keith Ellison and the Black Caucus walked out and refused to vote. That's out of context, because it wasn't just Keith Ellison and the Black Caucus. So I don't how you can say that all these people walked out, and Keith Ellison is the only one that you think is a reverse racist for something dozens of people did."
Fields: "No, but when you put it together, right. Go back and look at the Charlie Rangel vote. When you put the pieces together, only one member of the Congressional Black Caucus voted to censure Charlie Rangel. So when you put those two pieces together, it may look like, maybe the issue with regard to Eric Holder is out of context. But now bring it into focus when you see Charlie Rangel there, and what do you get an image of? What does that look like? You have a representative that is still viewing life through a prism or playing racial politics. And what I'm saying is that's not right."
Click the next page for the full ad that allegedly does not call Ellison a reverse racist. In the words of Chris Fields: You decide.
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