Politics & Government

House leader refuses to apologize for calling out her ‘white male’ colleagues

Minnesota House Democratic leader Melissa Hortman was sick of her colleagues relaxing in a lounge instead of listening to speeches made by women and minorities on the House floor, so she let them know how she felt.

“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 at a Monday night House session.

Hortman was irritated her colleagues weren’t in the chamber listening to a speech by Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar about how a proposal to increase penalties for protesters who block Minnesota freeways could negatively impact civil rights.

More than 40 percent of the Minnesota House is white males. Seventy-two percent of the Republican caucus is made up of white men, and they chair 19 of 28 House committees.

Republican Rep. Bob Dettmer asked that Hortman, the minority leader, apologize for her comments.

“I’m a white male. I respect everybody,” Dettmer said. “But I really believe the comments made by the minority leader were really not appropriate. Minority leader, would you apologize to the body?”

Short answer: No.

Long answer:

“Representative Dettmer, I'm glad you asked me to yield. I have no intention of apologizing. I am so tired of watching Rep. Susan Allen give an amazing speech, Rep. Peggy Flanagan give an amazing speech, watching Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn give an amazing speech, Rep. Rena Moran give the most heartfelt, incredible speech I’ve heard on this House floor, as long as I can remember, watching Rep. Ilhan Omar give an amazing speech... and looking around, to see, where are my colleagues? And I went in the retiring room, and I saw where a bunch of my colleagues were. And I'm really tired of watching women of color, in particular, being ignored. So, I'm not sorry.”

Republican Rep. Greg Davids called on Hortman to resign for her “racist” comments, and said the speeches she was defending “were amazingly repetitive and boring.”

“First of all, the speeches weren’t that good,” Davids told the Star Tribune. “Her comments were extremely offensive and divisive [and] created a hostile work environment.”

He said Hortman was breaching House protocol by talking about activity in the chamber’s retiring room.

“I couldn’t believe she singled out a race and a sex like that,” Davids said.