The head of House Republicans’ campaign arm said he was entirely unaware, until asked by reporters last week, that one of his top recruits celebrated the death of a political opponent, made sexist remarks about others, and offered a host of other offensive comments in his stint as a political blogger.
Jim Hagedorn is the Republican nominee in Minnesota’s first congressional district, a prime Republican pickup opportunity and one that National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) has described as a national bellwether.
It will be Hagedorn’s fourth House run. His previous efforts have been marred by a long stream of highly controversial and offensive remarks he made between 2002 and 2012 on his now-defunct website, Mr. Conservative.
Hagedorn infamously dubbed Washington’s two U.S. senators, both women, “undeserving bimbos in tennis shoes.” He wrote that Harriet Miers’ nomination to the Supreme Court was an effort “to fill the bra of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.” He dubbed a former House Republican’s alleged abuse victim, “white trash”; called Indian reservations “casino parlors” and “redistribution of wealth centers”; and suggested that former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) bucked his party on the Iraq War due to his Jewish faith.
In his “Election 2002 Masterpiece Analysis,” Hagedorn wrote: “Good news from Hawaii, Pasty Mink is still dead. Bad news from Hawaii, some other communist will win her congressional seat.” On election night 2008, he predicted that Barack Obama’s victory would usher in mass migration from his “second country” of Kenya.
The Hagedorn campaign pointed to the fact he has since apologized for many of the remarks on that site, saying in a statement during his 2014 congressional run, “some of my hard-hitting and tongue-in-cheek commentary was less than artfully constructed or included language that could lead to hurt feelings. I offer a sincere and heartfelt apology.”
But this cycle, in the age of Donald Trump, he’s taken a more combative tone. “If someone wants to run a political correctness and identity politics campaign against us,” he told Roll Call last month, “we’ll see what happens.”
The NRCC hasn’t been turned off by the bring-it-on-approach. The committee named Hagedorn to its “Young Guns” fundraising program last week. It’s a program that trains and recruits aspiring legislators who pass “a series of rigorous goals and surpassed program benchmarks.” But that vetting apparently did not include informing Stivers of Hagedorn’s history of inflammatory comments.
At a press event last week hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Stivers was asked about some of those past, inflammatory comments.
“That is news to me,” he said. “I’ll go back and look at his blog…[T]hat’s all news to me and I appreciate you bringing it to my attention.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast on Tuesday, Maddie Anderson, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, called Hagedorn’s remarks “inappropriate.”
“We in no way condone these inappropriate remarks,” Anderson said. “The NRCC encourages all candidates to focus on the issues voters in their district care about.”
Hagedorn’s comments weren’t exactly hidden from public view. In fact, they earned local and some national media coverage during his previous congressional runs. A couple weeks before Stivers admitted his ignorance of Hagedorn’s writings, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee posted online a public copy of its research book on the candidate, which runs over 100 pages and includes excerpts from his most outlandish comments.
Those comments also included a defense of Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), who lost his 2012 challenge to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) after suggesting that women could not get pregnant from “legitimate rape.” On his blog, Hagedorn wrote, “during this entire incident, the only actual rape that took place was the one Inside-the-Beltway establishment Republicans inflicted upon Akin.”
In 2006, he described a woman who accused then-Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA) of choking her when giving her a back rub as “white trash.”
“To set the stage, Metropolitan DC police officers are called to [Former Representative] Sherwood’s Hill House apartment, based upon a complaint that a Congressman is attempting to illegally dispose of his white trash,” Hagedorn wrote.
Hagedorn also strenuously criticized a landmark 2003 Supreme Court decision, Lawrence vs. Texas, that struck down laws making homosexual conduct illegal. “Justices not named Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas felt compelled to nullify a dwindling number of rarely enforced morals laws by which States, in essence, prohibited two-way traffic in tunnels constructed by God and marked by nature as ‘exit only,’” Hagedorn wrote.
Those and other controversial comments don’t appear to have sidetracked Hagedorn’s campaign thus far. There have been few polls conducted in the district, but a recent internal Hagedorn campaign poll showed him with a 14-point lead over his Democratic opponent, teacher and Army veteran Dan Feehan, according to a local news report. (Internal polls are, to be clear, notoriously unreliable).
But Feehan does enjoy a decent fundraising lead, having brought in more than $1.1 million to Hagedorn’s $850,000.
Hagedorn is hoping to replace retiring Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), who bested Hagedorn in general election contests in 2014 and 2016 and is now running for governor.
Hagedorn also ran for the seat in 2010, but failed to secure the Republican nomination during that cycle. His campaign website plays down that and other losses. “Hagedorn’s back-to-back-to-back campaigns follow successful similar efforts undertaken by former Minnesota Congressman John Kline, current Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich,” it notes.