By Rep. Jeremy Munson
The Mankato Free Press recklessly reported a lie when it quoted a slanderous, inflammatory, and unethical statement made by DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman against six Republican state representatives. These untruthful statements and baseless accusations were used to damage reputations and intimidate legislators from speaking about election laws.
In the article, “House to investigate Akland, Munson over state Capitol rally,” the paper quoted the speaker as stating, “We’re investigating whether there were members of the Minnesota House of Representatives who advocated for, incited or supported acts of domestic terrorism.” Before printing the article, the newspaper never checked the truthfulness of this statement, inquired about the basis for the accusations, listened to the actual speeches, or asked for a response.
Instead, the lies were printed and the events were represented in a manner that insinuated further untruths.
Here are the facts: On Jan. 25, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL) confirmed publicly on the House floor there is not and never has been a House investigation on anyone who attended the rally on Jan. 6. Furthermore, Winkler agreed The Free Press’ headline was inaccurate. When the speaker made her false accusations of criminal activity, she had no basis. This is why the BCA also never opened an investigation or even called a single Minnesota legislator regarding the rally.
There were no violence or riots in St. Paul. In a later article, The Free Press reported videos showed Rep. Susan Akland and I did not use inciteful rhetoric or calls to violence. However, even after acknowledging there was no criminal activity, inciteful rhetoric, or investigations of any kind, the newspaper still refused to retract its original article or even amend its title.
In two later articles, the paper reprinted the speaker’s unsubstantiated and baseless accusations of criminal activity and claims of investigations without pointing out their known falsehood.
The paper had reason to know its headline was false before printing, as the House does not investigate crimes. Furthermore, the paper ran these stories with reckless disregard for the truth to create controversy and damage the reputations of Republicans.
I take these slanderous and untruthful statements seriously. They are hurtful to the representatives and their families, and more importantly, slanderous statements and reckless reporting further people’s mistrust in the media and government.
As a result of the paper’s reckless reporting of lies and unwillingness to attempt to fix the damage it caused, the paper is willfully allowing a Democrat opponent and left-leaning groups to use the paper as a vehicle to spread lies and misinformation about myself and Rep. Akland.
This lack of journalistic and leadership ethics is toxic to the voice of the people. We do not want legislators screening constituents. In an average year, we frequently have all kinds of rallies and protests at the Minnesota Capitol. It is wonderful to see people taking time to exercise their constitutional rights.
When possible, I attend these events to better understand people’s concerns and share my thoughts with groups whose ideas I support, as well as oppose. I intend to continue, as I feel it is an important part of my job.
Unfortunately, I am now hearing some legislators questioning if this is wise. This is the result of unethical behavior by House leadership, and a media who willfully perpetuates her slanderous accusations and statements even after they were shown to be lies.
Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, represents District 23B in the Minnesota House of Representatives.