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Published June 14, 2011, 06:37 AM

Minnesota State Senator Must Apologize for Tweet

The Minnesota Senate Ethics Committee on Monday night told state Sen. Gretchen Hoffman to apologize for a misleading tweet about a fellow senator.

By: Don Davis, Forum Communications

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Senate Ethics Committee on Monday night told state Sen. Gretchen Hoffman to apologize for a misleading tweet about a fellow senator.

Hoffman, R-Vergas, must send an apology letter to Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, and tweet a link to the committee’s report finding her at fault. She also must remove her original tweet from her Twitter account.

If the first-year senator complies, the committee will drop her case.

All four committee members said the senator was wrong, but needed six hours to consider response to the tweet, the first social media-related Senate ethics charge.

“Sen. Goodwin just called people with mental illness idiots and imbeciles while debating HHS bill,” Hoffman tweeted May 18.

The tweet came during debate on funding health and humans services programs. Goodwin three times referred to “idiots, imbeciles and the insane” as terms that at one time were used for the mentally bill, indicating that came in a time when care was inadequate.

Goodwin said she is satisfied that Hoffman was required to apologize for her tweet and said she hopes the ethics sanction will prevent future infractions.

Hoffman did not testify during her Capitol hearing, although she took an oath so she could testify if needed. No one asked her questions.

She left well before the meeting ended, and her attorney, Fritz Knaak, was not available after the meeting for comment about whether Hoffman would comply with the committee order.

Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, brought the ethics charges, saying it was obvious Goodwin was not calling the mentally ill idiots and imbeciles, just talking about history.

“It is very clear that she mischaracterized what Sen. Goodwin said,” Rest said after the committee watched a video replay of the May 18 Senate debate.

Knaak said Hoffman should have apologized to Goodwin on May 18 or during the debate she should have objected to her colleague’s remarks. He attributed Hoffman’s inaction then on being a first-year lawmaker.

But, Knaak said, Hoffman’s mistake does not rise to the level of an ethics charge.

Hoffman is a nurse who has worked with the mentally ill.

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