This week, the Star Tribune Editorial Board published an opinion piece on the gun violence debate by former state Rep. Tony Cornish (“Why wise legislators should just say no to gun control,” March 28). While the former legislator was once a frequent contributor to the opinion pages, things have changed, and I was surprised the newspaper would publish this piece.
It is to be expected that Tony Cornish would be opposed to bipartisan, common-sense gun-violence prevention. He is so enthusiastic about guns that he regularly wears an AR-15 lapel pin and is known to carry a weapon throughout the halls of the Capitol. But make no mistake, this is not just a former legislator with an opinion. Tony Cornish is a former legislator for a very specific reason — for years, he systematically sexually harassed women at the Minnesota State Capitol, and just last year was finally held accountable for his actions and was forced to resign.
This man should not have a platform in the debate about gun violence. He is known to have perpetrated intimidation and harassment against women at the Capitol. He is not an example of a law-abiding gun owner. You cannot harass and physically intimidate your colleagues and be law-abiding.
By giving him this platform the Star Tribune is doing what so many others have done over the years — denying and diminishing the harms caused by workplace sexual harassment. By elevating his voice, the Star Tribune is re-victimizing women who have endured years of unwanted advances, unwanted touching and even assault by a powerful elected official.
Knowing the behavior that Cornish exhibited, exposed now for who he is, it shocks me that he is still given a platform in this debate. Even worse, he spent hours this week in the halls of the Capitol, wandering in and out of committee hearing rooms, chatting with his former Republican colleagues, smiling and waving like a returning hero. He stood in close proximity to women he has harassed and intimated. Women who were simply there to do their jobs.
There has been an outcry over the last several months for leaders in the Legislature to take action to address the problems that have been exposed. And yet, Republican Speaker Kurt Daudt didn’t ask Cornish to leave.
The #MeToo movement finally gave women who have been harassed a place to be acknowledged and believed, and it has ushered in long overdue change. But as with all movements that disrupt the status quo, backlash follows. The elevation of the voice of an abuser of women by the state’s largest newspaper is part of this backlash.
What Tony Cornish did was wrong. The people who enabled his behavior for years were wrong. Do not give this behavior a pass. It is time to continue to push for change so that all Minnesotans, including those who work in the halls of government, can call their Capitol a safe place.
Laurie Halverson, DFL-Eagan, is a member of the Minnesota House.