When Bluestem last left Gretchen Hoffman, the charming freshman senator and poster child for listening comprehension tests had sniffed that she looked forward to talking to Barbara Goodwin about an offensive tweet.
The plot of this opera buffa thickened today when ethics charges were filed against Hoffman--and the yarn-peddling princess of Fargo, North Dakota, tossed out a statement that Goodwin had indeed insulted people with mental illness and developmental disabilities. Because, you know, Hoffman is a nurse.
In sunny Detroit Lakes, the DL Online reports in Ethics complaint filed against Sen. Hoffman:
Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, is in hot water after a Wednesday night tweet.
An ethics complaint was filed today against Hoffman by Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, for a Twitter comment Hoffman made regarding Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights.
Hoffman tweeted around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday that Goodwin used derogatory names when referring to people with mental illnesses.
Hoffman’s tweet stated: “Sen. Goodwin just called people with mental illness-idiots and imbeciles-while debating HHS bill #offensive #mndfl #mnsrc #mnleg.”
This was after Goodwin approached the floor to debate cuts in the Health and Human Service bill.
“I’m concerned this is a rationing of healthcare in other parts of the bill,” Goodwin said, referring to the Omnibus Health and Human Service Bill.
Goodwin said that, before working in the Legislature, she worked on a study relating to the institutionalization of state hospitals.
“We took a look at what the costs were of the state hospitals – at that point 10 state hospitals – and what it would take to de-institutionalize those folks, get them back in the community,” she said.
Goodwin then went into the history of state institutions in Minnesota, specifically in the late 80’s.
“This is how far we’ve come, the way state institutions used to be; they were called institutions for the idiots, imbeciles and the insane – and that’s what it said right on the hospital,” she said. (These comments can be found around 3:50 of the YouTube clip of Goodwin's speech.) . . .
. . . Toward the end of her remarks, Goodwin again referred to the name previously used by state institutions.
“These are people, these aren’t fiscally wise decisions in so many ways,” Goodwin said referring to cuts in the bill. “We might not have the 10 state hospitals for the idiots, insane and the imbeciles like we used to, but that’s because a lot of people put a lot of hard work and logic into how to develop absolute basic services we need in our communities.” (These comments can be found around 11:20 of the YouTube clip of Goodwin's speech.) . .
The skinny on the complaint:
The complaint suggests Hoffman violated a Senate rule that states any member shall not publish material about another member’s position that is known to be false or clearly misleading. It also alleges that Hoffman violated a portion of the rule that states members are to adhere to the highest standard of ethical conduct.
In a separate editorial, the Detroit Lakes paper's editorial board posted its opinion in Jeers for Hoffman’s inflamatory ‘tweet’:
Jeers to State Sen. Gretchen Hoffman of Vergas for her needlessly incendiary way of doing business in the Legislature.
She is in trouble for a “tweet” message Wednesday night during a Health and Human Services debate in which she took a fellow legislator’s comments completely out of context.
Hoffman, a small business owner, is no fool. Perhaps she was bored or tired — it was a late session — but we don’t understand what she hoped to gain by sitting back and sniping falsehoods through her Twitter account.
As a rookie lawmaker, she is new to politics, so her constituents may want to cut her a little slack.
She should apologize and move on. And most importantly, make sure it doesn’t happen again.
If she is going to cover the Legislature by tweeting messages, she has a journalist’s responsibility to get as close to the truth of the matter as she can.
Hoffman fell far short of that mark on Wednesday night.
It doesn't look likely that Hoffman will apologize. In Ethics complaint filed against senator for Twitter message, Rachel Stassen Berger reports:
In a statement Friday, Hoffman said: ""On Wednesday, May 18, Senator Barb Goodwin referred to people with mental illnesses as idiots and imbeciles in the Minnesota State Senate floor. As a registered nurse who has worked with patients with mental illnesses for many years, I was offended by her remarks. I shared Senator Goodwin’s remarks with my Twitter followers. Until the Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct completes their work, I have no further comment.”
Photo: Gretchen Hoffman.