Several Republican lawmakers said Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman “sullied” their reputations when she “recklessly” suggested to the media that they were under investigation for inciting domestic terrorism.
The House took up a resolution Monday to condemn the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and reaffirm the state’s “commitment to democracy, free and fair elections, and the rule of law.”
State Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, offered an amendment to the resolution to “condemn any action that interferes with anyone’s ability to speak against their government,” but — to the surprise of some legislators — the motion failed to pass without any significant support among the body’s 64 GOP representatives.
Drazkowski introduced the amendment because he was one of six Republicans who were fiercely ridiculed for speaking at a “Storm the Capitol” rally in St. Paul Jan. 6, the same day as the U.S. Capitol assault.
Most reports on the Minnesota event focused on one speaker in particular, Alley Waterbury, who said there will “be casualties.” Another claimed that America is “at the threshold of a civil war.”
“The leadership of this body brought forward a statement to the media that was inflammatory and inaccurate, and they did it recklessly, without even knowing what did or did not occur at the rally outside the Minnesota State Capitol,” Drazkowski said during a Monday night floor session.
He was referencing a statement made by Speaker Hortman and picked up by countless media outlets. In it, Hortman said that “we’re investigating whether there were members of the Minnesota House of Representatives who advocated for, incited or supported acts of domestic terrorism.”
According to Drazkowski and others, that investigation “never existed.” State Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, said three local papers reached out to him, but two spiked the story because they were unable to confirm with state authorities that an investigation was taking place.
Gruenhagen called Hortman’s actions an “attempt to silence political speech.”
“Members, if that doesn’t give you pause that there were statements like that made about members of this body when none of that occurred, that should chill you like it’s chilling Minnesotans around this state,” Drazkowski added. “The names of members of this body have been sullied by the recklessness of the leadership of this body.”
The Department of Public Safety did announce last week that it reviewed footage from the protest and “determined that no actions or speech rose to the level of criminal activity.”
“I talked to the leadership of this body about it and they had absolutely no evidence that the six members who spoke at the rally did anything wrong, and still forwarded the narrative — the false, fake, concocted narrative — that there was some investigation going on, which you and I and others have acknowledged never existed,” Drazkowski said.
Others who attended the rally, like state Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, said Monday’s resolution would be used to “silence debate on this very important issue of elections.”
Munson called the resolution a “uniform condemnation of any legislator or public official who speaks about the need to restore election integrity.”
“Leadership of the House of Representatives, as Rep. Drazkowski said, has either intentionally or accidentally spread lies to damage the reputations of members of this body. The Mankato Free Press and my local Fox and CBS affiliates along with numerous other local papers ran repeated stories about the Minnesota House launching an investigation of six members of the Legislature,” Munson continued.
“There was, in fact, as Rep. [Ryan] Winkler, the majority leader said, no investigation and the House does not investigate matters such as this.”
One of the top search results on Google for Rep. Susan Akland, R-St. Peter, a freshman member, suggests that she was investigated for her participation in the rally, Munson pointed out.
“It sullies the reputation of a new member of the Legislature. We can’t control what the media prints, they have the First Amendment, but the leadership of this House has a duty to correct the lie that’s continuing to be spread by the media,” he said.
State Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, said she was “absolutely appalled” by Hortman’s statement and thinks it created “a toxic work environment.”
“I have been called many names before but a domestic terrorist was really troublesome and extremely concerning,” she said. “I think we all need to step back and stop with the name-calling of one another and actually look at each other as human beings.”