Minnesota House speaker defends alerting authorities after reporter’s confrontation with House aide

DFL leaders notified House Sergeant-at-Arms and Capitol Security about the reporter

By: and - April 14, 2023 5:57 pm

Rep. Jamie Long and Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman at a press conference introducing a MinnesotaCare public option bill. Photo by Grace Deng / Minnesota Reformer

After a coalition of media organizations, including the Minnesota Reformer, recently sent a letter to the Minnesota House DFL leadership decrying the treatment of a MinnPost reporter, House Speaker Melissa Hortman released a statement Friday saying an internal House policy forced her to take action against the reporter, Peter Callaghan.

A Democratic-Farmer-Labor communications aide accused Callaghan of being rude during a Feb. 9 press conference. After reporters were told they’d be allowed one more question, Callaghan responded, “No, we can take several more questions. We’re trying to understand this bill.”

After the news conference, House DFL spokesman Matt Roznowski upbraided Callaghan. Roznowski threatened to call his editor, and Callaghan responded with a profanity, according to a letter written by attorney Leita Walker and signed by news outlets to DFL leadership.

House DFL responded by removing Callaghan from its press release email list, which alerts reporters to press conferences and statements. He was later added back onto it.

Hortman said in a statement that after a series of sexual harassment incidents in the House, lawmakers developed a new harassment and discrimination policy in 2018, at her insistence. She said the policy requires the House to promptly take action to address alleged violations of its discrimination and harassment policy, whether by members of the House and staff, or third parties like lobbyists and reporters.

“We are obligated to take action, and we did,” Hortman said. “As Speaker, I will continue to follow the policies of the House and work to provide a safe and respectful workplace for members, staff, press, lobbyists and the public.”

On Feb. 17, a House DFL official and the House director of human resources accused Callaghan of discrimination and harassment. House leadership then sent a letter to MinnPost, asserting that Callaghan’s comments raised “serious concerns” under the House policy on discrimination and harassment. The letter also said they notified House counsel, the House Sergeant at Arms and Capitol Security, a division of the State Patrol.

MinnPost Executive Director Tanner Curl said in response that the media coalition wasn’t saying House leadership can’t look into employee concerns or that reporters can treat House staff however they want. Their concern is in how the House pursued the matter, cutting off Callaghan’s access and notifying Capitol Security. He added that the interaction is available to the public online, and anyone can see that it depicts the regular give-and-take of a press conference.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs.

J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children