Minn. Dems file ethics complaint over Republican lawmaker’s ‘idiots and imbeciles’ tweet
Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, “misled the public” when she tweeted Wednesday night claiming that DFL Sen. Barb Goodwin “called people with mental illness idiots and imbeciles” during a debate on the Health and Human Services budget bill, according to a complaint filed Friday with the Senate Rules Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct. Sent to committee chair Sen. Michelle Fischbach by DFL Sen. Ann Rest, the complaint states that Hoffman “falsely describes Senator Goodwin as personally using derogatory labels for those with mental illness.”
As video of Goodwin’s testimony on Senate File 760 shows, she was noting “how far we’ve come” since the days when mental health facilities were called “Institutions for Idiots, Imbeciles, and the Insane.”
Goodwin said, “We might not have the ten state ‘Hospitals for the Idiots and the 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 that we need in our communities.”
Hoffman made an update on Twitter, passing along only part of Goodwin’s words and using the hashtag #offensive:
According to her bio, Goodwin served as Principal Planning Analyst at the Hennepin Children’s Mental Health Collaborative from 1998 to 2002 and “was responsible for coordinating the efforts of school districts, local government and health care providers to plan programs for youth with mental illness, developmental disabilities and violent behavior.”
Hoffman’s tweet was then retweeted on the personal Twitter account of Michael Brodkorb, GOP party vice chair and Senate Republican Caucus communications staffer, although he is not named in the complaint.
The complaint argues that Hoffman broke the Senate rule that states, “A member shall not publish or distribute written material if the member knows or has reason to know twhat the material includes any statement that is false or clearly misleading, concerning a public policy issue or concerning the members’s or another member’s voting record or position on a public policy issue.”
Goodwin’s testimony on May 18 was interrupted by Sen. Warren Limmer, who indicated he was aware of the context of Goodwin’s words. As a point of order, he requested that Goodwin keep on the topic of the HHS omnibus finance bill, instead of taking a “trip down memory lane about the way we handle people with mentally — mental disabilities, talking about labels on hospital buildings and things like that.”
The complaint seeks an investigation, with public hearings, on Hoffman’s actions. Hoffman has not apologized.
Read the complaint: