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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: 755401

Reported Deaths: 8531
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1513291905
Ramsey62614972
Dakota56158520
Anoka53010513
Washington33145327
Stearns27922252
St. Louis23178352
Scott21316159
Wright20879170
Olmsted17821118
Sherburne15232111
Carver1336954
Clay1006598
Rice9855131
Blue Earth949559
Crow Wing9254105
Kandiyohi819195
Chisago816662
Otter Tail7807104
Benton7363108
Beltrami633276
Mower631740
Douglas616189
Goodhue603683
Winona603653
Itasca596978
McLeod580868
Steele572425
Isanti558172
Morrison541565
Becker518762
Polk502577
Freeborn480842
Nobles477052
Lyon444456
Carlton438666
Nicollet423051
Pine419930
Cass413142
Mille Lacs403565
Brown398846
Todd389336
Le Sueur378331
Meeker350452
Waseca322629
Martin316534
Wabasha28495
Hubbard283644
Dodge26819
Roseau258924
Fillmore236312
Redwood234143
Wadena230229
Houston229017
Renville224249
Faribault214630
Pennington213227
Sibley204512
Cottonwood193027
Kanabec187130
Chippewa185839
Aitkin178442
Watonwan168711
Pope15328
Rock153219
Yellow Medicine151120
Jackson144114
Koochiching137219
Clearwater133318
Swift132619
Pipestone131627
Marshall131419
Murray131310
Stevens122311
Lake106221
Wilkin100214
Lac qui Parle95024
Mahnomen86312
Norman8459
Big Stone7874
Grant7669
Lincoln7525
Kittson59522
Red Lake5769
Unassigned528124
Traverse5005
Lake of the Woods4524
Cook2420

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 467281

Reported Deaths: 6685
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk73698716
Linn28680379
Scott24441271
Black Hawk20130355
Woodbury18854242
Johnson17800100
Dubuque15577228
Pottawattamie14073197
Dallas13894107
Story1275148
Warren763496
Webster6876111
Cerro Gordo6816107
Clinton6814100
Des Moines657893
Marshall635484
Muscatine6294113
Wapello5807136
Jasper571478
Lee560787
Sioux560276
Marion499791
Buena Vista489745
Plymouth459187
Henry378647
Jones365160
Washington362255
Bremer353867
Benton352056
Boone344837
Carroll341753
Crawford337345
Mahaska313656
Dickinson297651
Clay274631
Buchanan274239
Jackson270445
Kossuth269373
Hardin266448
Tama261476
Fayette253848
Delaware253444
Cedar246326
Page244827
Wright240945
Winneshiek230837
Hamilton228553
Floyd216744
Harrison215277
Madison214325
Clayton210058
Poweshiek206840
Iowa204229
Butler203237
Jefferson197340
Mills197227
Allamakee192952
Cherokee191943
Lyon190641
Cass190557
Winnebago185432
Hancock184739
Calhoun184115
Appanoose175950
Shelby174239
Louisa169651
Grundy167937
Emmet163842
Franklin163328
Humboldt161826
Mitchell161843
Union159437
Chickasaw156418
Sac156323
Guthrie154034
Palo Alto140831
Clarke140028
Montgomery138941
Keokuk137534
Monroe131534
Howard125422
Ida116641
Davis113825
Greene113712
Lucas112224
Pocahontas109323
Monona107436
Worth10678
Adair103634
Osceola91117
Fremont83711
Van Buren82721
Decatur81212
Taylor78612
Wayne72024
Ringgold66827
Audubon64514
Adams4984
Unassigned150
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