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Playboy Fallout Hits Capitol
By Martin Kaste
October 1, 1999
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Governor Ventura continued to dismiss the criticism of his interview in Playboy Magazine Friday. On his weekly radio show, he called the controversy a "rhubarb," and blamed it on news media that misinterprets him and a political culture that can't handle honesty. The state's more-traditional political leaders, meanwhile, say they still hope the governor will reconsider his position and offer an apology; they say his defiant attitude could hurt his relationship with the Legislature.

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Listen to the entire Ventura news conference.

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MOST OF THE CALLERS to Ventura's regular Friday talk show offered him their support.
Roxanne: I would like to thank you for the person who you are, for your honesty, that's something that somewhere along the line we have somehow forgotten, but I do appreciate honesty, and I know there are a lot of people who do.
Ventura: It's like I said initially, it's a tough situation being elected to a position like this, and trying to remain honest, because when you're honest, it make life and the job very difficult.
Ventura's radio producer says he didn't screen out negative calls, but even so, there were only a few. One of them objected to the governor's quote calling the "Tailhook" Navy sexual harassment scandal "much ado about nothing."
Jenny: Something like that would tend to make me think, "Well, now on women's issues, what's he gonna ... If he thinks it's 'much ado about nothing,' what does he think about women's issues?"
Ventura says what he meant in the interview was that sexual harassment was much ado about nothing from the point of view of military men, whom he regards as "Frankensteins" and "killing machines," but that he personally doesn't condone it. Ventura also took a call from a man who identified himself as a veteran county commissioner from southern Minnesota, and who took exception to Ventura's assertion that professional politicians have a hard time being as honest as he is.
Clem: We are very honest, Mr. Governor.
Ventura: Okay, All right.
Clem: I think you're doing a disservice to the many people, county commissioners, the city councils, even the school board members. I know these people, and the legislators.
Ventura: Let me explain...
Clem: They are not dishonest.
Ventura: Wait! Wait! Wait, Clem!
The resentment seems to be lingering among higher-ranking politicians, too. State legislators say they're still waiting for an apology from the governor, especially for his remark calling organized religion a "sham," which they consider an insult to most Minnesotans. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe said only a clear apology would repair the damage. Moe: I think the governor has a chance to rectify it by doing what I suggest, which is to apologize to Minnesotans, to call attention to the positive things that Minnesotans have done, certainly before he was governor, and I think if he did that, he would do the honorable thing, and he might be able to rebound from this. The Playboy rhubarb comes at an awkward time for the governor. His staff has been working all summer on something he calls the "Big Plan," a comprehensive statement of his vision for Minnesota for the rest of his term. He plans to roll out the plan in four weekly speeches, starting next Tuesday, and legislative leaders are expected to attend and listen carefully. Many around the Capitol say the Playboy interview may detract from the serious, policy-oriented image he wants to project. But Public Safety Commissioner Charlie Weaver, who used to serve in the House before Ventura recruited him, says he's not too worried about the fallout.
Weaver: Things like this or the flap over security or whatever tends to reinforce those who don't support the governor and also probably reinforces those who do like him. He's not done any detriment, from my perspective, to my ability to my job as commissioner, and to me that's the test.
Sviggum: Well, I think Commissioner Weaver, as good a friend as he is, is trying to put a little spin on the situation.
Steve Sviggum, the Republican Speaker of the House, says Ventura's comments will have an effect on the Legislature's attitude toward him, and toward his legislative agenda.
Sviggum: People are going to react with a certain degree of distrust and disrespect because of the outrageous comments that the governor has made, and it's bound to take some focus away, it's hard to say how much.
Sviggum and Moe and other political leaders say they're not turning their backs on the governor, and they'll still give his legislation a hearing, but they say he's damaging the intangible personal relationships that a governor often has to rely on to get things done at the Capitol. One legislator says it's not so much Ventura's opinions that are hurting him with other politicians; the real problem, he says, is the "I am the King" attitude with which he seems to delivers them.