Updated: Senate Fires Staffer After Twitter Battle With Lawmaker

By Scott Wente, Forum Communications

A Minnesota Senate Republican staffer was fired Friday, hours after he used profanity on Twitter to publicly criticize Cottage Grove Republican John Kriesel’s opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Senate GOP legislative assistant Bob Koss took to Twitter Thursday night to sharply criticize Kriesel after he said he saw an anti-amendment television ad featuring the retiring House member.

“Just saw the (Kriesel) marriage ad. Really glad the RINO will be leaving the Legislature,” Koss tweeted. “RINO” is a political acronym for “Republican in name only.”

Kriesel, a widely followed and prolific Twitter user, replied on the social messaging site by calling Koss a profanity, though he later deleted that comment.

That prompted an obscenity from Koss.

“Wow, so the piece of —— representative confirmed by long standing belief,” Koss tweeted.

Koss later added: “Go ahead and play your veterans card to shreds as you’ve done. You’re a self serving SOB and I pity you.”

Kriesel is an Army National Guard veteran who lost his legs while serving in Iraq. He referenced his near-death battlefield experience in a speech he made last year on the House floor before being one of two Republicans voting against putting the marriage amendment on this year’s ballot. The amendment would ban same-sex marriage in the Minnesota Constitution.

The anti-amendment group Minnesotans United for All Families is using video of Kriesel’s speech in a TV ad. Kriesel supports the organization.

Koss’ remarks garnered attention within Minnesota political circles within minutes of the postings. That interest grew by Friday as some Republican activists denounced Koss’ comments and Democratic operatives suggested Koss should lose his job.

By early afternoon Friday, Koss was out of his job.

“Bob Koss is not longer employed or an employee of the Minnesota Senate,” Senate GOP caucus spokesman Steve Sviggum said in an interview. Citing employment law, Sviggum declined to say whether Koss resigned or was fired. “He’s no longer employed and I have to leave it at that.”

A Twitter photo of Koss appeared to show him sitting at a senator’s desk at the Capitol. During their Thursday night Twitter exchange, Kriesel asked him whose desk he was using. Koss was a legislative assistant for Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar.

Prior to learning Koss had been terminated, Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, said Friday he had heard about the Tweets and said his impression was that it was a sophomoric conversation and inappropriate.

Subsequently, Gimse learned that his aide had been terminated by the Senate GOP caucus and said, “All I can say is he was let go and I agree with that.’’

Kriesel’s question drew another sharp response from Koss: “Answer me first toy publicity loving SOB. And your supporters are as disgusting as you.”

Koss later tweeted that he was sorry: “I want to say I’m sorry for how this evolved. It’s very personal to me but I approached it in the wrong way. God bless.”

Kriesel responded to Koss by calling the veteran remark “beyond classless.”

“I retweet idiots for fun, but they don’t bother me. I’ve been through way too much in my life to let a couple people ruin my day,” Kriesel wrote, later adding: “I definitely wasn’t blameless tonight. I can be a bit of a jerk at times.”

A phone message left for Koss was not immediately returned Friday. Kriesel also did not immediately reply to a request for comment Friday.

Tom Cherveny of the West Central Tribune of Willmar contributed to this story.