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Committee deadlocks on Lindner ethics complaint
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Asked if he regretted any of the statements after the verdict, Lindner answered, "not in the least." (MPR File Photo)
An ethics complaint against state Rep. Arlon Lindner has been dismissed. The House Ethics Committee on Thursday deadlocked on whether there was probable cause to pursue disciplinary action against Lindner. House DFLers charged that Lindner brought dishonor to the House by making comments that offended some blacks and homosexuals. Lindner says he stands by his comments.

St. Paul, Minn. — Last month, Rep. Lindner said on the House floor that he questioned to what extent the Nazis persecuted homosexuals during World War II. The Corcoran Republican is sponsoring a bill that would remove civil rights protections for gays and lesbians. He said his bill would help prevent the spread of AIDS, and keep the U.S. from becoming, in his words, "another African continent."

Ethics committee member Greg Davids, a Republican from Preston, says Lindner's comments were offensive, but Lindner has the right of free speech.

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Image Rep. Greg Davids

"I believe Rep. Lindner's interpretation of history is wrong, somewhat bizarre and odd. But I keep coming back to, while I do not agree with Rep. Lindner's... with what he said or his statements... I do believe he has the right to say it," Davids said.

Davids and the other Republican on the committee, chairwoman Sondra Erickson of Princeton, voted not to pursue the ethics charges. Erickson says legislators often say hurtful things on the House floor without apologizing. She cited recent debate over a 24-hour abortion waiting period.

"It was hurtful to hear us have the woman's right to know referred to as the stupid women's bill. That was an insult to women, but it was so hurtful to those of us who take a different position. Or to hear the baby in the womb referred to as the fetus," Erickson said.

House DFLers who brought the complaint say Lindner's comments are more than just hurtful. They say Lindner offended large groups of people, and fed into a movement to revise history.

Rep. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, says the Ethics Committee missed an opportunity to take a stand against historical revisionism.

"This is much bigger than a simple ethics complaint. Rep. Lindner was relying upon materials which he and chair Erickson say is just a difference of opinion. The materials he was relying upon are part of a total historical revisionist movement in this country which are totally discredited by any legitimate scholar," Latz said.

Latz and other Democrats had asked the ethics panel to censure Lindner and remove him as chair of the House committee that deals with tourism.

The panel's 2-2 vote ends the ethics complaint. Following the vote, Lindner said he's happy the committee didn't find probable cause, and he told reporters he stands by his comments.

"I certainly do," he said.

Asked whether he regretted saying them, Lindner responded "not in the least."

Lindner's unapologetic stance prompted a committee observer to call Lindner "a redneck." Bill English of the Coalition of Black Churches told Lindner he offended an entire continent of people.

"You offended me, representative. You offended my daughte," he said in the Capitol hallway.

"I don't even know who you are," Lindner responded.

"I know you don't. Get some education and learn something before you offend a whole nation of people," said English.

"Well you better get some education before you call someone a redneck," countered Lindner.

"You are a redneck. And I'm not going to apologize for it," English said.

English and Lindner accused each other of being intolerant. Lindner says as a result of the ethics complaint, he's been trying to censor himself on the House floor. He says that's unfortunate, because lawmakers should be able to speak freely.

This is the second time Lindner has faced an ethics complaint, and both times, the complaints were dismissed. Three years ago, Lindner referred to a Jewish lawmaker's "irreligious left" views. The ethics panel found the comments "regrettable", but took no disciplinary action.

Republicans say any action will be taken by the voters in Lindner's district, who can decide whether to re-elect the six-term lawmaker.

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