ST. PAUL (AP) -- The director of public affairs for the House Democratic caucus apologized Tuesday for published comments in which he compared Republicans to the Ku Klux Klan and repeatedly called them liars.
In a May 8 story by the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, Lou Harvin was quoted as saying legislative Republicans have a "KKK mentality, but totally without the hoods." Harvin is black and the newspaper has a largely black audience.
Racial tensions have been stronger than usual this year at the Capitol. In March, House DFLers filed an ethics complaint against a GOP legislator for remarks he made about gays, the Holocaust and AIDS in Africa.
Copies of the Spokesman-Recorder article circulated around the building Tuesday, and one GOP senator rose on the floor to demand an apology.
"I'm offended by this statement," said Sen. Tom Neuville, R-Northfield, after reading excerpts aloud.
House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, called the comments "reckless and deplorable."
"There is some real hurt brought by his words," Sviggum said.
Harvin apologized in a one-paragraph statement. He attributed his comments to an emotional outburst related to the case this spring involving Republican Rep. Arlon Lindner of Corcoran.
A deadlocked ethics committee refused to take action against Lindner, who was brought before the panel for expressing doubt about gay persecution during the Holocaust and for saying the United States would become "another African continent" if it didn't do more to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
"As an African American, the Lindner case was difficult for me personally, I should have taken a deep breath and not offered a comment," Harvin's statement read. "I sincerely apologize for my remarks and any ill feelings they may have caused."
The Lindner case wasn't mentioned in the Spokesman-Recorder article, which was a profile of Harvin.
In it, Harvin suggested Republicans are getting better at hiding their racism.
"I'm not saying they're going to go out and hang people; I'm not saying that. I'm saying the KKK mentality is alive and well, and it's so slick now," he told the newspaper.
House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul, said he had no immediate plans to reprimand Harvin.
"He feels terrible," Entenza said. "I appreciate that he's apologizing for this unequivocally and immediately. He told me he knew it was wrong."
Harvin, a former television and radio reporter, joined the House DFL staff at the beginning of the year.
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