Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson is apologizing for characterizing the OccupyMN protesters at the Hennepin County Government Center as "socialists, anarchists, flower children" who were "very messy."
On his blog today, Johnson, who also serves as Minnesota's Republican National Committeeman, said the remarks were unscripted and that he went for some "cheap applause."
I made the comment off-the-cuff in a joking way to a group of conservative activists. And while it was not meant for public consumption, when I read it in print later it certainly came off as rather mean and obnoxious (to use my own term).
I try to teach my two boys not to live their lives in different "boxes" where they act one way in one setting and completely differently in another - maybe saying something to friends or on Facebook that they wouldn't think of saying at home or in church. Obviously, I wasn't practicing what I preach as I wouldn't have used terms like that, even in jest, in any other public setting.
Now, let me say, I have read what are purported to be some of the "demands" of the Occupy Wall Street crowd - which is the genesis of the Occupy Minnesota crowd - and I couldn't more vehemently disagree with many of them (universal government healthcare, free college education for all, completely open borders, trillions in new spending, elimination of secret ballot votes in union organizing campaigns, etc). And I frankly get very annoyed at the propensity of some to blame our greatest problems on the free market or successful businessmen and women rather than on government policies and the politicians who have gotten us into this massive mess.
Nonetheless, going for a little cheap applause by calling people names isn't the way to respond.
I'm never afraid to take on anyone's argument when I disagree - and that will never change - but I have always tried to keep political disagreements from turning personal and have worked hard to listen to and work with those whose views might be quite different from mine. I probably didn't represent that philosophy very well on this one.
Johnson later wrote on Twitter that he met with a few of the protesters. He said they were "decent people with VERY different views from me of what ails our country."
Side note: Johnson characterized our initial reporting of his comments as "hastily reported." It should be noted that his comments were posted on the blog and ran on the radio several hours after he made the comments. I also consulted with our political editor, Mike Mulcahy, as to whether Johnson's comments were worthy of reporting. We decided to publish the comments since the protests were being held at Johnson's place of work - the Hennepin County Government Center.
Tom, you're kind to Jeff Johnson, calling this an apology. It isn't. While Mr Johnson concedes he did something wrong, there's nothing in his extended quote that says, "I'm sorry." Nor is there a retraction. To the contrary, he stuffs his presumptive mea culpa with another hyperbolic political diatribe against the people he's already insulted. Apparently his disgust with their differences rationalizes his bad attitude and inflammatory language.
Johnson can't even bring himself to say his remarks were "mean and obnoxious," but only that they "came off" that way. No apology, no retraction, and plenty of additional political harangue, just to balance the piece. Perhaps that's the best we can expect from today's GOP politicians, but your calling it an "apology" is far from the mark. You can do better, even if Mr Johnson cannot.
A hearty thumbs-up to Mr. Crammedin's comment. Everything he says is right on the money. After so many non-apology apologies in politics, it seems we've forgotten what a real apology looks like.
The strong reaction of Republicans and their allies to the 99% movement indicates their fear of democracy and the success of the movement in breaking down the common ideology that we can't afford to serve the needs of the vast majority of people in this country.
The fact that this fake apology is the headline this morning after a night when Veterans for Peace were beaten and arrested in Boston and there were mass arrests in Iowa, reflects a deep problem with the coverage of this moment that infects 'public' radio as well as the for profit press.
Agreed with Ralph.
I was one of the people that wrote Mr. Johnson explaining that this comments don't help an already divided debate and society and that as a leader he should strive to be positive, and not negative.
There was an NYTimes Opinion in yesterday's paper that I think people should read regarding these protests:
Panic of the Plutocrats
Also agreeing with Ralph...!
agree with Ralph...when will Repubs stop dictating what they will accept as ultimatums. I really wish there was another country/planet they could go to and bring their theocratic-plutocracy with them and live with it. I for one, am not interested in living under the same conditions as Iran or what spawned the dark ages in the past.
I've never been bothered by MPRs choice of what to report on before this piece. I simply fail to see how an off the cuff comment to Republican activists is newsworthy. The manner in which is was reported - that Commissioner Johnson criticized the protesters - made it out to be much more than it was. He wasn't standing at the Government Center ripping on protesters, he made an off the cuff comment at a republican event in his role as RNC Committeeman. It's pieces like this that make in incredibly hard to defend MPR as non-partisan.
It's fair to say I won't be donating during this funding drive.
If you don't want it written, don't let it happen.