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Video deleted from Minnesota first lady's tense policy forum

A deleted video from a forum that turned tense over racial issues demonstrates some of the political risks in Minnesota first lady Gwen Walz's push for criminal justice reform.

Posted: Sep 16, 2019 1:45 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A deleted video from a forum that turned tense over racial issues demonstrates some of the political risks in Minnesota first lady Gwen Walz's push for criminal justice reform.

Walz and staffers in the governor's office wanted to promote an upcoming PBS documentary about rigorous college coursework for prison inmates because they want to replicate the concept in Minnesota — and to raise her profile as a leader on criminal justice issues.

But not everything went according to plan. Minnesota Public Radio reported Monday that a forum at Twin Cities Public Television one day last May that included screenings of clips from the documentary turned tense when the moderator pressed participants about race. A top aide to Democratic Gov. Tim Walz sought the next day to make sure a video of the forum didn't circulate. The event's hosts acknowledged deleting the video to smooth out ruffled feathers.

TPT officials defended their handling of the matter. The Walz administration initially took a similar posture, but later expressed regret for an "overreaction" on its part.

The documentary, "College Behind Bars," set to air in November, profiles the Bard Prison Initiative, a program developed at a prison in New York state that's aimed at tackling recidivism by steering inmates toward college courses and degrees.

The moderator of panel discussions at the forum, Toussaint Morrison, who is black, told MPR he felt compelled to ask the panelists, including Gwen Walz, who is white, about race because the clips they saw mostly showed inmates of color. He said she framed incarceration in her opening remarks as an issue of education, money and geography before "somebody from the audience said, 'it's a race issue.'"

Other community members in the studio chimed in as well. The panelists were taken aback, apparently unprepared to talk about the racial aspects of criminal justice. The discussion then shifted away from race until Morrison brought it back.

"I said, 'Can we talk about prison and education without talking about race?' And then the panel just goes silent. ... Now the audience is a little razzed up because they're not, nobody's answering the questions," Morrison said.

TPT President and CEO Jim Pagliarini told MPR he spoke the day after the forum with Kristin Beckmann, the governor's deputy chief of staff.

"Because we didn't agree to tape it and there was no plan to use it going forward, I think we all just agreed it didn't need to be around anymore," Beckmann told MPR.

Pagliarini denied the decision to delete the video resulted from political pressure. He said the recording was never intended for broadcast.

"I think that there is validity in their concern that our moderator, our employee, he pursued a line of questioning that made people uncomfortable," Pagliarini said.

But Beckmann later told MPR it was a mistake to press TPT. "We made an emotional decision at that time, and we realize in hindsight that it was an overreaction," she said in an email. "We regret the decision."

Gwen Walz stressed that she views the conversation about race as important.

"As I say in almost every speech that I give, I'm going to acknowledge who I am: I'm a middle-aged white woman with privilege — with white privilege. And I am on a journey learning what that is about. And I need all of Minnesota to help me and help one another have this conversation," she said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 282916

Reported Deaths: 3359
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin605241095
Ramsey25467477
Anoka20172216
Dakota19573179
Washington12799108
Stearns1254793
Scott764754
St. Louis763197
Wright683036
Olmsted616033
Sherburne522339
Clay449655
Carver420912
Blue Earth379511
Rice377732
Kandiyohi365915
Crow Wing324131
Nobles298029
Chisago28838
Otter Tail273315
Benton269340
Winona251828
Mower239723
Polk230621
Douglas228929
Morrison215321
Lyon200011
McLeod19289
Beltrami190415
Goodhue180926
Becker178810
Steele17296
Itasca170524
Isanti170216
Todd167412
Carlton161310
Nicollet148223
Freeborn14195
Mille Lacs136530
Le Sueur135010
Waseca131811
Cass12368
Pine12216
Brown121110
Meeker11187
Roseau10143
Martin100620
Hubbard100022
Wabasha9351
Redwood82718
Dodge7980
Chippewa7907
Watonwan7884
Cottonwood7431
Renville73118
Sibley7224
Wadena7166
Aitkin69224
Rock6779
Pipestone67318
Houston6242
Fillmore6150
Yellow Medicine58211
Pennington5576
Murray5433
Kanabec54112
Swift5266
Pope4910
Faribault4901
Stevens4552
Clearwater4456
Marshall4377
Jackson4291
Lake3654
Unassigned35856
Koochiching3475
Wilkin3305
Lac qui Parle3213
Lincoln3171
Norman3166
Big Stone2801
Mahnomen2554
Grant2396
Red Lake1973
Kittson1876
Traverse1340
Lake of the Woods891
Cook600

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 216579

Reported Deaths: 2240
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk32244325
Linn13583162
Scott1055981
Black Hawk10541131
Woodbury9984116
Johnson920835
Dubuque886590
Story656619
Dallas611456
Pottawattamie589167
Sioux356425
Webster345831
Marshall339244
Cerro Gordo332342
Clinton312337
Buena Vista293514
Muscatine273968
Des Moines270616
Warren264810
Plymouth261938
Wapello244071
Jones225313
Jasper208440
Marion196719
Carroll192621
Lee191716
Bremer187212
Henry17257
Crawford170715
Benton162716
Tama149440
Jackson138511
Delaware137221
Washington135813
Boone130711
Dickinson128510
Mahaska123427
Wright11835
Buchanan11249
Clay10964
Hardin109310
Page10854
Hamilton10477
Clayton10455
Harrison102428
Calhoun10237
Cedar102213
Fayette10008
Mills9977
Floyd98614
Lyon9858
Kossuth9675
Poweshiek95512
Butler9375
Winneshiek91510
Iowa89611
Winnebago88023
Louisa82316
Hancock8217
Grundy81711
Sac8077
Chickasaw8014
Cherokee7814
Cass77221
Appanoose7509
Shelby7346
Allamakee73211
Guthrie72415
Humboldt7205
Mitchell7204
Union7166
Emmet71424
Franklin68820
Madison6614
Jefferson6441
Palo Alto6114
Unassigned5961
Keokuk5537
Pocahontas5442
Howard5089
Greene5070
Osceola5031
Clarke4644
Ida45510
Davis4415
Taylor4352
Montgomery43410
Monroe43112
Adair4218
Monona4032
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Van Buren3434
Worth3410
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