State Rep. still not sorry after complaint filed over 'white male' remark

A formal complaint says Rep. Melissa Hortman's comments needlessly invoked race and gender.
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Minnesota state Rep. Melissa Hortman circulated a news release Friday that contained what must be one of the shortest prepared statements ever from a politician.

"I'm still not sorry," is all the DFLer had to say after her Republican colleagues filed an official Protest and Dissent into the House Journal over remarks Hortman made earlier this week.

Hortman, of Brooklyn Park, is the DFL leader in the Republican-controlled House. She made waves on the House floor Monday when she complained that too many members were ignoring a discussion about whether to toughen penalties for protesters who block traffic, saying: “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's critics say in their Protest and Dissent that she "needlessly invoked the race and gender of her colleagues." Their document admonishes Hortman for her statements, saying they were beneath the dignity of the House. They also "implore Minority Leader Hortman to apologize for her actions and strive to repair the damage she has caused to the collaborative work environment" in the House.

The first non-apology

According to the Pioneer Press, fewer than half the House members were in their seats when Hortman made her speech Monday. But that soon changed. And it was Hortman, not protesters, who became the subject of the House debate.

When one of her white male colleagues asked Hortman for an apology, she refused to provide one. Instead, it led her to offer a more complete explanation of her remarks. (Watch their exchange here.)

Hortman listed a handful of female legislators whose floor speeches she said were tuned out by other Representatives, adding "I’m really tired of watching women of color, in particular, being ignored.”

Speech spread quickly

Hortman's comments are not getting ignored. They were passed around the country this week, sparking discussions about gender, listening, and whether dissenting opinions get heard.

The venerable women's magazine Cosmopolitan opened its article with the line: "Even lawmakers have to deal with men who refuse to listen to them."

A best-selling author was among those weighing in.

The Legislature started its spring break Friday evening. Hortman's office says she plans to elaborate on her "still not sorry" response to her critics after lawmakers return to St. Paul April 18.

She did tell WCCO this week: “I regret the extent to which relationships have been damaged — yes, for sure — because I respect my Republican colleagues.”

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