Amid their own apologies, GOP leaders ask for one from Franken

The chair of the Minnesota Republican Party and two members of the Minnesota House are calling on DFL Sen. Al Franken to apologize for past writings and actions that Republican leaders say are offensive to women. They also want DFL Party Chair Ken Martin to denounce Franken.

The news conference comes less than 24 hours after the Republican candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s First Congressional District apologized for past blog posts that he said were "less than artfully constructed or included language that could lead to hurt feelings.”

Downey started the news conference by criticizing DFL Party Chair Ken Martin’s criticism of the old blog posts by Jim Hagedorn,  the Republican nominee to challenge DFL Rep. Tim Walz. Hagedorn’s comments were initially reported in 2009 by liberal blogger Sally Jo Sorensen, but resurfaced last week when Mother Jones published an article reminding voters that Hagedorn wrote that two U.S. Senators were “undeserving bimbos in tennis shoes” and about "John Wayne's wisdom of the only good Indian being a dead Indian."

The recent round of reporting on Hagedorn's blog posts prompted Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden to tell a Star Tribune reporter that he condemned Hagedorn's writings. It also prompted DFL Party Chair Ken Martin to criticize Hagedorn in a news release.

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Downey and state Rep. Marion O’Neill, R-Buffalo, and state Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, said Martin was being hypocritical for criticizing Hagedorn but not criticizing Sen. Al Franken. They said Franken’s past work as a comedian satirist and a video of him outside a 2012 fundraiser where he put a set of traffic cones on his chest are offensive to women. Franken apologized for his some  of his comedy in 2008. But Republicans say he should do more.

“Sen. Franken may have apologized before for making jokes about sexual assaults about women, but in my opinion you can't apologize enough," Scott said. ""We're here today to say that Sen. Franken's pattern of disrespect towards women has continued into his first term as a sitting U.S. Senator."

Scott and Downey didn’t specify why party leaders waited four months before calling on Franken to apologize for his action. Instead, Downey said Martin’s statement prompted them to respond.

“Given the fact that Chairman Ken Martin started calling on others in supposed outrage over their behavior, the absence of that outrage over that behavior (Franken’s behavior) became ever more apparent and the hypocrisy jumped out to us, " Downey said. "So today is the day where these Republican women are calling on Al Franken to apologize and Ken Martin to demand such an apology as well.”

Spokespersons for Martin and Franken did not respond to interview requests. 

UPDATE: A spokeswoman for DFL Party Chair Ken Martin declined to comment. A spokeswoman for DFL Sen. Al Franken also declined to comment.

As Downey and the two lawmakers spoke to reporters, GOP Deputy Chair Chris Fields, who apologized two weeks ago for tweets about Robin Williams’ suicide, sat in the hallway outside of the news conference.

Downey refused to answer questions about how the party is handling its endorsed candidate for Minnesota Supreme Court, Michelle MacDonald.

On Saturday, Downey wrote a memo saying the party is still backing MacDonald. But the memo also criticized her for failing to raise money, for her legal troubles and for being a distraction to other GOP candidates. Downey and other party leaders decided to ban MacDonald from the party’s State Fair booth, leading to a standoff on the first day of the Fair when MacDonald showed up at the booth.

It also led Republican Attorney General candidate Scott Newman to back Supreme Court Justice David Lillehaug over MacDonald.

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Jeff Johnson says he’s still backing MacDonald but is calling her actions at the Fair booth “a distraction.”

Downey has refused repeatedly to answer questions about MacDonald and the decision to ban her from the booth.  Today he denied a Politics.MN report that said party leaders made a formal offer to MacDonald to “repudiate the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsement and end her campaign.”

Downey walked out of the news conference when a reporter asked whether a lawyer was not telling the truth when he said he told MacDonald in a recent phone call that he was sent by the party with the offer.

“We’re talking about Al Franken here today and very un-Senatorial behavior. I’m glad to talk to you about other matters in a different venue. For now, let’s leave it at this,” Downey said.