MOORHEAD - Sen. Norm Coleman and a Twin Cities attorney well-known for handling high-profile sexual harassment cases exchanged heated words Friday at a Moorhead news conference.
Lori Peterson stood in the doorway of a conference room at the Courtyard by Marriott Conference Center and lobbed questions at Coleman, asking him whether Twin Cities multimillionaire Nasser Kazeminy ever purchased clothing for him, a charge that has appeared in Coleman's opponent's television commercials.
"Nasser Kazeminy has not bought me suits," responded Coleman, who then pointed at Peterson.
"This is Mr. Franken's campaign, false, unsubstantiated allegations, which the DFL and others have used," said Coleman, referring to his Democratic opponent, Al Franken.
Moments later, Coleman ended the news conference by leaving the room.
Coleman called Friday's news conference to refute a lawsuit that alleges Kazeminy funneled $75,000 to Coleman's campaign via an insurance company that employ's Coleman's wife.
Coleman called allegations in the lawsuit false and malicious.
Peterson, a Hawley, Minn., native, said she is not a part of the Franken campaign, but she plans to vote for him. And she said it wasn't scripted that she appeared at Friday's news conference. She said she happened to be in the area visiting relatives.
As she left the conference center, she accused Coleman of unethical conduct she said is well known in the Twin Cities.
Coleman spokesman Luke Friedrich called Peterson's claims absurd.
"Four days before a very close election, Al Franken and his allies are willing to say anything, lob any charge, no matter how absurd, no matter how unsubstantiated," Friedrich said.
During Friday's news conference, Coleman stopped short of directly linking Franken's campaign with the lawsuit filed in a Texas court.
But his message was clear.
"I hope Minnesotans will join me in holding my opponent and his political allies accountable for this," said Coleman, whose campaign has filed a complaint with Minnesota's Office of Administrative Hearings alleging falsehoods in Franken ads.
Peterson became the subject of headlines in the 1980s, when she attended what was then Moorhead State University and tried to have the sale of magazines like Playboy and Penthouse banned from campus.
In 1990, when Peterson was a University of Minnesota law student, she made the news when she said a Saudi Arabian prince had promised to donate $1 million for animal shelters around the country, including one in Fargo.
The promised money never materialized.
Also during the 1990s, Peterson was the attorney in a number of highly publicized cases involving allegations of sexual harassment, including one in which she represented former Hooter employees who accused the restaurant chain of creating an environment that encouraged sexual harassment.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555