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Ventura Apologizes for Ethnic Slur
By Martin Kaste
February 25, 1999
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Governor Ventura offered an apology of sorts today for joking on national television that drunken Irishmen laid out the streets in St.Paul, but he also accused the media of blowing the situation out of proportion. At the same time, some of Ventura's aides are hinting that other politicians are trying to use Ventura's gaffe for political gain.

GOVERNOR VENTURA'S APOLOGY WAS HARDLY CONTRITE. He said people in Minnesota didn't seem to have a sense of humor anymore, and he implied he was making the apology under duress by the news media.

Ventura: I want to make a statement and I'll take no questions on it. When I'm done with it, I'm done with it. It deals with our latest headlines in the paper these days, that's taking priority over many of the tremendous things we accomplished at the National Governors Association meeting with the president, meeting with our Senate and Congressional delegation, but maybe that's not as important in light of what the headlines have been lately.
Ventura's spokesman, John Woodele, says he doesn't blame the media for the brouhaha, but he says the media are serving the interests of other people.
Woodele: We realized that the media is going to keep playing the story as long as others out there fan the flames. And our goal is to move on to issues that are important to the state of Minnesota.

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Woodele says there are people "out there" who are trying to use the situation for political gain; but he refused to name names. In recent days, several state politicians have publicly criticized the governor. On Monday, State Senator Gary Laidig stood up before his colleagues and demanded Ventura apologize for going on NBC and saying that politicians suffer "diarrhea of the mouth". On Wednesday, Senator Dean Johnson criticized Ventura for spending too much time on the road.
Johnson: If Jesse keeps jetting off to this conference or this TV show, and so on and so forth, we're not going to enjoy his perspective.
Also yesterday, St Paul Mayor Norm Coleman showed up at Ventura's office to defend his city, and to poke a little fun at the governor's bout of foot-in-mouth disease.

The common denominator among Ventura's critics lately is that they're almost all Republicans. Democrats have a cozier relationship with the Governor, taking his side on major tax legislation, and keeping any negative thoughts they might have about him to themselves. While Ventura was away this week, he also took a shot from the St. Paul Pioneer Press - a paper that backed Republican Norm Coleman in the last election. An editorial on Tuesday accused Ventura of low productivity, and it compared the estimated 10 pieces of legislation he's submitted so far to the 160 bills Arne Carlson had submitted by this time in 1997.

At least one Republican, former Governor Al Quie, is willing to give Ventura the benefit of the doubt.
Quie: Maybe in some cases, it would be better for the state if we didn't pass so many bills and didn't intrude in their lives more.
Quie says different governors have different styles, and Ventura's tendency to sit back and let the Legislature duke an issue out before he weighs in could turn out to be a good strategy.

As it stands now, the Ventura administration is still fuming over the attacks, and one Ventura staff member says it's now clearer than ever that the Republicans are going to act as a foil to Ventura, while Democrats keep their heads down.

Martin Kaste covers politics for Minnesota Public Radio. You can reach him at