MANKATO — Republican congressional candidate Jim Hagedorn apologized Sunday for controversial blog posts he made a decade ago about women, Native Americans and other groups. But the apology he posted on Facebook focused mostly on criticizing liberals and people dwelling on “political correctness.”
The national attention on the Blue Earth resident's writing is occurring as divisions surface among Republican activists in Minnesota's 1st Congressional District in the wake of his Aug. 12 primary victory over endorsed Republican candidate Aaron Miller of Byron.
Hagedorn won 54 percent of the primary votes. He will face Democrat incumbent Rep. Tim Walz of Mankato in the November election.
Hagedorn's posts re-emerged Friday in a Mother Jones article about his Mr. Conservative blog, which he ran from around November 2000 to November 2008.
His most notorious posts were in his 2002 election analysis. He alleged Democrat voter fraud involving deceased Native Americans before writing “Leave it to liberals to ruin John Wayne’s wisdom of the only good Indian being a dead Indian.” He called two female senators from Washington “bimbos in tennis shoes” and made controversial statements about same-sex couples.
The southern Minnesota blog Bluestem Prairie originally wrote about the posts during Hagedorn's unsuccessful 1st District Republican endorsement bid in 2010. His posts drew further attention when they were deleted.
Hagedorn is still the registered owner of the blog. It was last updated July 27 when the image stating the blog was only under maintenance was replaced with a blank white screen.
Hagedorn defended his posts for years as "satire" aimed at both political parties. When interviewed by the Star Tribune on Friday, he said he didn't feel he needed to apologize.
He received criticism from both liberals and Republicans during the weekend, including from Sen. Al Franken's Republican challenger Mike McFadden.
“I think that Jim Hagedorn needs to apologize for the inappropriate comments he’s made on his blog. His writings do not reflect Minnesota values. This country has become too divided; we need leaders to focus on uniting not dividing us,” said McFadden in a statement to the media.
On Sunday, Hagedorn reversed course and posted an apology. He spent the rest of the post saying he was being attacked personally and the critics were using "out-of-context material." When interviewed, he declined to provide specific examples.
“In spite of this hypocrisy, I do acknowledge that some of my hard-hitting and tongue-in-cheek commentary was less than artfully constructed or included language that could lead to hurt feelings. I offer a sincere and heartfelt apology,” Hagedorn said in his statement.
Hagedorn said he felt he needed to take more responsibility about his statements but did not specifically answer questions about why he chose to apologize.
Some Republican activists are also expressing frustration with Hagedorn about his victory over the endorsed candidate. The majority of Miller supporters interviewed by The Free Press indicated they were willing to vote for Hagedorn in the general election. But they strongly opposed the party endorsing Hagedorn.
1st District Republican Chair Carol Stevenson indicated on primary night the party might hold an endorsement convention in Mankato. But the party has not yet announced any plans. Hagedorn said he is not actively seeking a post-primary endorsement.
In the most dramatic example of the tension, Fillmore County Republican Chair Doug Baker sent an anti-Hagedorn email Aug. 18 to activists across the district. He declined requests for comment, stating his email "speaks for itself."
"Let me get this straight. We want to reward the guy who lied right to our faces, wasted our time and money and widened the rift in the district by wasting more time and money to give him the very thing he thought lowly enough to ignore four months ago," Baker wrote.
Baker compared Hagedorn to an "angry kid," brought up the blog posts and criticized Hagedorn for living outside of Minnesota for most of his life.
Hagedorn said he disagreed with Baker's claims. He declined to comment on whether Baker's actions were appropriate.
Miller has still not called to concede nor congratulated Hagedorn on winning the primary.
Baker's letter also claimed Hagedorn had two DWI arrests. Baker didn't respond to questions about his claims.
In an interview, Hagedorn said he pleaded guilty to a DWI charge when he was a young adult. He said he accepts responsibility and regrets his actions.
"I had one mistake more than three decades ago. It wasn't my proudest moment. Luckily, nobody got hurt," Hagedorn said.
He said the arrest occurred in 1983 while he was living in Fairfax County in Virginia. He said he told Republican leaders in 2010 and 2014 prior to running for the endorsement.
It is unclear if Hagedorn's DWI admission will have any impact on his campaign. Republicans heavily targeted Walz in 2006 over a drunken-driving arrest in 1995, which only resulted in him pleading guilty to reckless driving. He won the election with 53 percent of the votes.
Hagedorn has pulled posts Republican activists put on his Facebook about the Walz arrest. He said he doesn't know how to block the posts from being posted in the first place.
A copy of Baker's letter and a link to the Mother Jones article is attached to the online version of this article.