Hoffman Apologizes To Fellow Senator Over Tweet

Sen. Gretchen Hoffman has apologized for a tweet she issued last month during a heated Minnesota Senate debate on health-care funding.

As required by the Senate ethics committee on Monday, the Vergas Republican sent a letter to Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights.

“This letter is intended to be the written apology from me to you indicated by the Minnesota Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct…” Hoffman wrote. “I am certainly sorry for my misunderstanding of what you said and how I subsequently handled it.”

During debate on the health and human services funding bill on May 18, Goodwin told colleagues that state institutions for the mentally ill used to be called homes for the “idiots, imbeciles and the insane.” She used the phrase three times to illustrate how far treatment for the mentally ill has come.

“Sen. Goodwin just called people with mental illness idiots and imbeciles while debating HHS bill,” Hoffman tweeted to her followers.

Hoffman has not talked about the incident in public and did not testify at Monday’s Senate hearing, although her attorney did speak. The senator is a nurse who has worked with the mentally ill and her spokeswoman said she was concerned about Goodwin’s remarks.

Hoffman did not approach Goodwin on the Senate floor and she did not rise to protest the remarks, as allowed under rules.

The ethics panel voted to dismiss charges against Hoffman if she apologized to Goodwin, if she removed her original tweet and if she tweeted a link to the committee’s report on the case.

Hoffman’s Twitter page, including the original tweet, was removed on Wednesday and on Thursday a new one with a different address was created with a lone tweet that directed readers the report.

The new Twitter page listed one follower for Hoffman, while on Monday night her old account listed nearly 700 followers.

Twitter is a social media service that allows users to send messages of up to 140 characters to people who follow them. The messages also are available on the Internet to people who search for them.

The Hoffman case was the first one involving social media in the Minnesota Senate, although the House ethics committee has dealt with one.