DFL House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman was not about to apologize for what she said.
House members were debating a bill that would add harsher penalties for shutting down a road or freeway as part of a protest — a tactic that Black Lives Matter had successfully used this past year in drawing attention to its cause.
Rep. Ilhan Omar had just given a speech connecting the action of Black Lives Matter protesters back to the civil rights protests in Selma, Alabama — where state troopers brutally assaulted protesters — an event that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”
Hortman noticed that several of her male colleagues were not on the floor listening to the speech and made a “call of the House”, a motion that brings members back to the floor. “I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate.”
The retiring room is a room only for House members located behind the speaker’s podium.
Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake) stood up and asked Hortman to apologize. “I’m a white male. I respect everybody. But I really believe that the comments made by the Minority Leader were really not appropriate.”
“I have no intention of apologizing,” said Rep. Hortman. She said she was “really tired of watching women of color in particular being ignored. So I’m not sorry.”
Dettmer responded. “All I know is if I would have made a comment like that, it would have probably made the front page of the newspapers. And Minority Leader, I do forgive you.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar then offered a definition of racism and noted that Hortman’s comments could not be called “racist.”
However, Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) did think the statement was racist. Heather Carlson of the Rochester Post Bulletin reports that Davids thinks Hortman should resign over the comment. “I was greatly offended by minority leader Hortman’s racist statement about white males,” said Davids according to Carlson.