DFL Rep. Phyllis Kahn apologized for statements she made minimizing the injuries of an activist who was beaten and suffered a concussion earlier this month during a precinct caucus in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.
The longtime Minneapolis representative is facing Minneapolis School Board member Mohamud Noor for the party endorsement in April. The race is one of the toughest Kahn has experienced during her 42 years in the Legislature, and illustrates the growing political power of the Somali community in Minnesota. That excitement soured on Feb. 4, when state Senate District 60 Associate Chair Ilhan Omar was beaten at the caucus after the meeting erupted in chaos.
“I oppose violence in any form,” Kahn said in a Facebook post on Thursday evening. “It has no place in our democratic process. I apologize for the statement I made minimizing violence. That was not my intent when I spoke and it certainly never has been my belief.”
Omar, who is a policy aide to Minneapolis City Council member Andrew Johnson, was later treated for a concussion after the beating. When asked about Omar’s injuries, Kahn was initially dismissive and questioned whether Omar had been seen by a doctor. Omar showed a MinnPost reporter the hospital papers detailing her concussion last week.
“I participated in the process when it was much more unfriendly to women than that. I did have the equivalent of a death threat,” Kahn told MinnPost last week in a follow-up article about the caucus violence. “Once that has happened, what’s a punch?”
Omar said she was threatened multiple times throughout the caucus night. She also says Minneapolis City Council member Abdi Warsame, who is supporting Kahn in the race, told her boss she shouldn’t show up to the event or there could be trouble for her. Omar is widely believed to be a Noor supporter, though she denies any public preference in the race.
There’s an ongoing city investigation and a workplace complaint against Warsame, who has declined to comment on the matter. A source close to the investigation confirms that Johnson told city officials Warsame made those statements to Johnson.
When reached Thursday evening, Kahn explained that she had gotten a significant amount of advice that she should apologize for the remark. But the veteran lawmaker also said that her statement was true.
“Anyone who says it isn’t true should have a death threat,” Kahn said. “I would like no one to be able to refute that unless they’ve had a death threat.”
Kahn said she discussed the comment with House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, who advised her to apologize, but the veteran lawmaker said she wasn’t asked to do so. Kahn also said it wasn’t a caucus position or a “caucus demand.”
But Kahn was facing pressure from DFL activists to apologize for her statement. In a Facebook post, SEIU Local 26 President Javier Morillo said the comment minimized violence and went “beyond electoral politics.”
“Would we ever stand idly by if a Republican were to say something like that? No, we would be calling on that person to apologize or resign,” Morillo wrote. Former DFL state representative and gubernatorial candidate Matt Entenza also called for Kahn to apologize.
The canceled caucus reconvened smoothly at the University of Minnesota Wednesday evening.
The police are investigating Omar’s injuries. The DFL will also investigate the initial caucus incident.
“I hope that she’s OK,” Kahn added. “I’m sorry that she was hurt in some way, but I don’t have any responsibility for it.”