Coleman Apologizes For Remark About Wellstone
Wednesday 9 April 2003
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Norm Coleman apologized Tuesday for telling a Capitol Hill newspaper he was a "99 percent improvement'' over the late Paul Wellstone.
"I apologize for any pain or any sense that what I said somehow diminished the legacy of Senator Wellstone,'' Coleman, R-Minn., said in a telephone interview. "I take full responsibility for that.''
On Monday night, Coleman said that he only meant to say he was an improvement over Wellstone in terms of relations with the White House. But on Tuesday, he said he realized that wasn't good enough.
"Good intentions aren't enough, context isn't enough,'' he said. "I always tell my kids that you're responsible for the consequence of your words and your deeds, and so I accept that responsibility, apologize, and would tell the people of Minnesota they should and will expect more from this senator in the future.''
Coleman's apology came after state and national Democratic leaders assailed him for what they called insensitive comments.
"Mr. Coleman's ego apparently is only exceeded by his lack of graciousness and good taste,'' said Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe. "We should expect more, but clearly count on less from Mr. Coleman. It's a shame that he cannot leave the memory of Senator Wellstone and his family in peace.''
Added DFL Chairman Mike Erlandson: "Senator Coleman's shameless comments criticizing the late Senator Paul Wellstone was both appalling and outrageous.''
Coleman declined to respond, saying he'll let his apology speak for him.
"There is a sense of higher responsibility in regards to the memory of Senate Wellstone,'' Coleman said. "I accept that.''
In Monday's edition of Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, Coleman said, "To be very blunt and God watch over Paul's soul, I am a 99 percent improvement over Paul Wellstone. Just about on every issue.''
Coleman made the remark as he was stressing his ties to President Bush. He told the newspaper that Wellstone "was never with the president.''
The Roll Call story caused an uproar among Wellstone's former staffers when it came out Monday. U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., called for Coleman to apologize, saying his remarks were inappropriate, disrespectful and "an unnecessary attack on a leader our state continues to mourn.''
Wellstone was killed, along with his wife and daughter, three campaign aides and the two pilots in a plane crash Oct. 25 in northern Minnesota.
Steve Schier, a professor of political science at Carleton College, said the gaffe won't hurt Coleman.
"This is atmospherics,'' he said. "What matters is what he does, how he votes. This is not the sort of thing that people are going to remember. It's a passing comment that I doubt will have a lot of traction.''
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