Hatch fends off criticism about remark to reporter

DFL governor candidate Mike Hatch fielded questions and fended off attacks Friday concerning a report that he called a reporter a "Republican whore."...

DFL governor candidate Mike Hatch fielded questions and fended off attacks Friday concerning a report that he called a reporter a "Republican whore."

"My recollection was that I said he was acting like a political hack," Hatch said.

Later, during a televised debate, he said, "I don't remember saying it, but I may have said it."

In a telephone interview Thursday with Forum Communications reporter Scott Wente, Hatch grew irritated with questions about a political gaffe by his running mate, Judi Dutcher. He eventually told Wente, "You're nothing more than a Republican whore. Goodbye," before hanging up on him.

Republicans jumped on the report Friday, calling Hatch's display of temper an example of why he shouldn't be elected governor.


"With one word, Mike Hatch offended all of Minnesota," said state Republican Party Chairman Ron Carey. "By calling a newspaper reporter a 'whore,' the angry, slash-and-burn Hatch that he's tried to hide over the past year has finally been revealed. Hatch has a long history bullying and attacking those who question him. Hatch's latest blow-up shows he doesn't have the temperament to lead our state."

The conflict started when Dutcher told an Alexandria TV reporter Thursday she didn't know what E-85 was. Republicans and political reporters questioned how a candidate for lieutenant governor could not know about the corn-based ethanol fuel made in Minnesota.

Also Thursday, Hatch made sharp comments to a KSTP-TV reporter asking about the E-85 issue, then blasted Stanley Hubbard, owner of Hubbard Broadcasting, which operates WDIO-TV in Duluth and KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities, for Hubbard's contribution to a third-party political action committee spending of millions of dollars on anti-Hatch ads.

He later told reporters in St. Paul that he had made some "inappropriate responses" to reporters in defense of Dutcher.

In interviews with a News Tribune reporter earlier this year, Hatch had lamented what he called a conservative, pro-Republican bent of Forum Communications and its owner, Bill Marcil of Fargo. The company purchased the Duluth News Tribune in June.

Don Davis, Forum's Capitol bureau chief, said he doesn't know if Hatch was referring to Wente personally or to the parent company's political leanings.

"We know he said it. But I'm not going to try to read anyone's mind" about what he meant, Davis said.

Davis declined to say whether Wente tape-recorded his interview. "Like with most professional news organizations, it is the Forum Communications bureau's policy not to discuss our news-gathering techniques," he said.


In an interview Friday morning with Scott Hennen on WDAY-AM in Fargo-Moorhead, Hatch said he didn't use the term "Republican whore."

"I used the term 'Republican hack,'" Hatch said. "I think the reporter I heard that that description was used, but that is not true. That is absolutely false. I was at the press conference; I said, 'Republican hack.'"

Wente, however, was not at a press conference. He was interviewing Hatch by telephone. Television reports do show Hatch talking to reporters during a southern Minnesota swing calling Hubbard a "Republican hack."

About the Hubbard comment, Hatch said: "I acknowledge it is a harsh comment and if I could do it again I would take it back."

Hatch and Republican incumbent Tim Pawlenty are locked in a bitter and tight race. Polls show them just a few points apart, with Hatch holding a slight lead, just four days before the election.

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