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Gretchen Hoffman must apologize for bogus tweet from Senate floor

Hoffman didn't show up at her own hearing.
Hoffman didn't show up at her own hearing.
@gretchenmh

The state Senate Ethics Committee has ordered a helping of humble pie for freshman Republican Sen. Grethen Hoffman, after she used Twitter to falsely accuse DFL Sen. Barb Goodwin of calling mentally ill people "idiots and imbeciles."

Goodwin was actually arguing on the Senate floor that mentally ill folks not be treated like idiots and imbeciles, and the two Republicans and two Democrats on the panel agreed that Hoffman owed Goodwin an apology on Twitter and on paper.

Here's the offending Hoffman tweet:

Video of Goodwin's real speech told the real story:

"The way these state institutions used to be, they were called 'institutions for 'idiots, imbeciles, and the insane,'" Goodwin said. "That's what it said right on the hospital, 'idiots, imbeciles, and the insane.'"

Goodwin was outraged at Hoffman's tweet, and her DFL colleague, Ann Rest, filed an ethics complaint. But Hoffman didn't even bother to show up at her own hearing. She left the talking to attorney Fritz Knaak, who made two bizarre assertions.

First, senators shouldn't be held accountable for what they say and tweet from the Senate floor.

"I certainly hope that the Ethics Committee doesn't want to get on its plate into the heads of members of the debate, subjective positions being taken in difficult political contexts and difficult political debates," Knaak said. "I would submit to you that that's not a place that you want to go."

Then he tried to argue that Hoffman "reacted appropriately" and should be excused for publishing bullshit about another senator, because she was oh-so caught up in the emotions of the argument.

"She has a great awareness of and sensitivity to the issues involved in that bill and in that debate," he said. "It was something that was reacted to appropriately, I believe, by someone who cares deeply about that industry."

Forget it, the ethics committee said.

Senator Hoffman had reason to know that her written statement concerning Senator Goodwin's comments on S.F. No. 760, published online through the Twitter Internet communication service on May 18, 2011, was clearly misleading with respect to Senator Goodwin's position regarding the public policy concerning the treatment of individuals with mental illnesses and disabilities, in violation of Senate Rule 56.2.

And it told her to do four things: 

1. Senator Gretchen M. Hoffman shall deliver a written apology to Senator Goodwin. 
2. Senator Hoffman shall remove her original statements concerning Senator Goodwin's comments regarding S.F. No. 760 from her Twitter account. 
3. Senator Hoffman shall provide a description of and a link to an online posting of this resolution on her Twitter account. 
4. Upon compliance by Senator Hoffman with the requirements of this resolution, the chair of the Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct shall dismiss the complaints.

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