Lawmaker calls out white men for not listening, says she's not sorry

DFL House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman has been called racist for her comment.
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A Minnesota House Democrat says she's not apologizing for specifically calling out white men, who she says weren't paying attention to Rep. Ilhan Omar's speech.

Monday, the House was debating a bill that would create harsher penalties for protesters who interfere with traffic on roads or freeways – which was ultimately passed.

During the afternoon's lengthy discussion, the Democrat Rep. Omar gave a speech against the measure. That's when DFL House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman noticed some people missing from the floor. So she called them out.

“I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate,” Hortman said, referring to a private room just off the House floor. You can watch video of the conversation here.

That got a reaction from a few politicians there.

According to The Uptake, Republican Rep. Bob Dettmer stood up and asked Hortman to apologize.

“I’m a white male. I respect everybody. But I really believe that the comments made by the minority leader were really not appropriate," Dettmer said.

Republican House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin also rose with a comment.

"I have to say that last comment was completely inappropriate for the House of Representatives," she said, according to MPR, then asked Hortman to apologize.

But Hortman said no.

"I have no intention of apologizing," she said. "I'm really tired of watching women of color in particular being ignored."

At least one person there, Republican Rep. Greg Davis, thought the comment was racist. According to a tweet by the Post Bulletin's political reporter, Davis even said he thinks Hortman should resign.

Rep. Omar defended Hortman, though, by reading the definition of racism. She noted that racism involves someone antagonizing a person of a different race based on the believe that their own race is superior.

"I don't think minority leader could be called, [or] her comments could be called racist," Omar stated.

MinnPost took a look at the demographics of the Minnesota Legislature (that's the House and Senate combined) recently. They found a total of 64 female legislators for 2017-18 – that's out of 201 total legislators, so women make up about 32 percent of state lawmakers.

They also found 16 lawmakers that identify as a racial or ethnic minority, which is the highest figure ever for the state.

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