In the Spotlight

News & Features
They're Mad About Jesse
By Karen Louise Boothe
April 16, 1999
Part of the 100 Days Series
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IN HIS FIRST 100 DAYS IN OFFICE, Governor Jesse Ventura has prided himself on speaking his mind. But sometimes speaking his mind has gotten Ventura in trouble. On several occasions, critics have said the governor's comments reflect a lack of sensitivity on issues pertaining to single mothers and minorities.

Ventura hasn't won many points for "political correctness. " Ventura quipped, on the David Letterman show, that drunken Irishmen planned the city streets of St. Paul, a comment which offended some in the city's large Irish-American population. Some Native Americans similarly took offense at Ventura's remarks about treaty hunting and fishing rights.

Once the courts upheld the treaty fishing rights--the Governor implored Minnesotans to honor the decision, but his critics didn't retreat. They said his lack of sensitivity continues to be reflected in the makeup of his cabinet. Of his 27 appointments, only one commissioner is a minority. The governor dismisses the criticism as nothing more than "personal attacks" and says two of his personal advisors are African American.

Vivian Jenkins Nelson is President and CEO of Inter-Race, a cultural- and racial-education organization based at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. Nelson says the governor's remarks nearly cross the line of racism. Nelson says the Governor's less-than-thoughtful remarks are troublesome and do nothing to narrow deep divisions between various groups of people in the state. She says it's up to him as the chief executive of the state to bring people together, not push them further apart.

The Governor has also had a run-in with a group of college students who rallied on the steps of the State Capitol. They were calling for more state aid in child care.

In his defense, Governor Ventura says he was elected because he is always himself, even if that means some people are offended when he speaks his mind. His advice to those who have been offended by some of his comments? He says they shouldn't lose their sense of humor.