UPDATED: State Sen. Barb Goodwin (DFL-50) lodged an impassioned complaint () on the Minnesota Senate floor after a colleague, Sen. Gretchen Hoffman (R-10), misattributed slurs against mentally ill people to her on Twitter.
Hoffman's tweet asserted that Goodwin had called the mentally ill "idiots and imbeciles."
Goodwin was speaking against Republicans' health and human services spending bill Wednesday evening when she made reference to terms like "idiots" and "imbeciles" that the state used to apply to the mentally ill, as well as to others committed to state mental hospitals. (.)
#Sen Goodwin just called people with mental illness- idiots and imbeciles- while debating HHS bill #offensive #mndfl #mnsrc #mnleg
That message got retweeted by several others, including state Republican Party Deputy Chair Michael Brodkorb and state Rep. Kirk Stensrud (R-42A). As of 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, none had deleted the tweet from their Twitter pages. (That has since changed: see 1 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. updates below.)
This, even as late as it is, as difficult as these issues are, this goes beyond the pale. This is an ethics violations in my opinion and I expect a public apology. ...
If she didn't hear me say, she better start listening, that the institutions, the state hospitals, used to be called—and it was right on them—the Institutions for Idiots and Imbeciles and the Insane. She totally understood what I said. And you know, this is beyond politics. This is just plain mean-spirited. And I expect an apology and I will file an ethics violation.
And I would suggest, members, from now on, this technology is great and we get information out real fast, but don't ever, ever make statements like this about people that are so false and inaccurate. We have more respect for each other than that.
Goodwin then said she had learned of Brodkorb's retweet. "So I guess that ethics violation goes to two places," she said. She did not mention Stensrud.
Fridley Patch sent requests for comment to Goodwin, Hoffman, Brodkorb and Stensrud late Wednesday.
Goodwin and Hoffman, both first-term senators elected last November, serve together on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Update (12:15 a.m. Thursday): Minnesota Public Radio quotes a statement from Hoffman via a spokesperson:
I look forward to sitting down with Senator Goodwin to discuss my concerns regarding remarks she made on the Senate floor today during a lengthy debate on Health and Human Services finance bill [sic]. Until I have an opportunity to speak with Senator Goodwin directly and share my experiences as a registered nurse, I have no further comment.
Update (1 a.m.): Stensrud has apparently since deleted his retweet of Hoffman. .
Update (10 a.m.): In their comments, Goodwin and Hoffman made reference to their backgrounds working with the mentally ill and as a registered nurse, respectively. Here is detail on that, from their campaign website bios:
Goodwin: "Barb was a Principal Planning Analyst at the Hennepin Children’s Mental Health Collaborative from 1998 to 2002. She was responsible for coordinating the efforts of school districts, local government and health care providers to plan programs for youth with mental illness, developmental disabilities and violent behavior."
Hoffman: "Gretchen Hoffman … is a Registered Nurse. … Gretchen has worked in many areas of nursing. A former Cardiac Intensive care nurse, Emergency Room Nurse, staff nurse, and Chemotherapy/Oncology nurse, Gretchen understands the intricacies of providing quality patient care, what it takes to be an advocate for people who are in very stressful times, and the challenges of providing care in an environment of diminishing reimbursement. Gretchen is pro-life and currently volunteers at the local Pro-Life Clinic as a receptionist and Registered Nurse."
Update (10:30 a.m.): Brodkorb has apparently deleted his retweet as well. .
Update (10:45 a.m.): Goodwin responded by email to questions from Fridley Patch about the tweet, Stensrud and Hoffman:
I didn't know about Rep. Stensrud. I don't even know that legislator. The tweet was brought to me by a staff person right after it was sent. Up to this point, my relationship with Gretchen has been cordial.
Stensrud, like Goodwin and Hoffman, is in his first term in his current office. Goodwin, however, also served in the state House from 2001-2007.
She said she'd have further comments "after today."
Other Capitol Clips
Also included in this post are two video clips of other Fridley legislators in action today.
In the House Rules Committee, (DFL-50A) tried to change the proposed Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage so that it also bans divorce ()—a tactic she picked up from Goodwin, who tried the maneuver both and . The ban passed the House committee 13-12.
(DFL-51B) spoke against part of the House K-12 education spending bill, saying that especially in its dire financial condition, the state shouldn't allocate new funding to private schools. (.)