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DFL Gov. Tim Walz sidesteped taking responsibility for the scandal at the Department of Human Services this summer by saying “I don’t do drama.”
Apparently the governor’s wife, Minnesota First Lady Gwen Walz, doesn’t do drama either. Especially when the drama is videotaped and raises concerns with her staff over an event tailor-made to burnish her standing with the public as a leader in criminal justice issues.
The controversy followed a panel discussion on corrections issues staged by Twin Cities Public Television in May which took an unscripted turn into a forum on race. The First Lady’s handlers became so alarmed with what unfolded that one of Gov. Walz’s top aides pressured TPT to make sure the video did not see the light of day.
Mission accomplished, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
By multiple accounts, panels that coincided with screening clips from the documentary turned tense when the moderator pressed participants about race before a restless audience. Later, a top aide to DFL Gov. Tim Walz sought to make sure a video made of the forum didn’t get circulated.
The footage wound up being deleted by the event’s public television station hosts, who acknowledged trying “to smooth out ruffled feathers” and who also delivered an apology to the first lady over the questions posed.
TPT was only too happy to hit the delete button as the left-leaning recipient of millions of dollars of taxpayer funding over the years. Longtime TPT president Jim Pagliarini, reacted more like a yes-man in a government agency working under Walz than the leader of a supposedly independent statewide public TV system.
TPT President and CEO Jim Pagliarini said he was approached by a panelist upset over how the prior night went. Pagliarini also said he spoke that day with Kristin Beckmann, deputy chief of staff for Walz, about concerns she had on behalf of the first lady.
“They said, ‘Is it taped?’ They are concerned about the tape and distribution of it,” Pagliarini said. “I said, ‘Let me check’ with no intent to delete it or do anything else with it.”
After discovering the video had been already been disposed of by staff, Pagliarini bent over backwards to make sure Walz’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Kristin Beckmann, received his personal apology intended for both the governor and first lady.
“I will send a more detailed email later to extend my apologies for how the moderator handled the panel discussion. But for now, I have been told the recording is already deleted.”
The panel’s moderator says the incident shows both TPT and the Walz administration care more about the First Lady’s image than race and other issues endemic to the criminal justice system.
[Toussaint] Morrison, who is black, said he feels hung out to dry and is upset he’s been singled out for criticism within TPT and outside of the station for asking tough questions.
“If I had done that bad a job, don’t you think I would ask them to delete the footage? So on that note it hurts that my abilities are called into question,” Morrison said. “But it also hurts that the denial is there. It hurts that TPT is going out of their way to protect a white person.”
TPT continues to defend the Nixonian-like deletion of the high-profile panel discussion as standard practice. Now that the Walz administration’s role in deleting the event has been exposed, however, the governor’s deputy chief of staff says she’d hit the rewind button rather than delete.
Beckmann concluded that it was a mistake for the governor’s office to press TPT on the tape. “We made an emotional decision at that time, and we realize in hindsight that it was an overreaction,” she wrote. “We regret the decision.”