Collin Peterson, the U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 7th District since 1991, no doubt expected softball questions and happy glad-handing when he visited Evangelical Lutheran-affiliated Concordia College last week for an event sponsored by the Campus Democrats.
Kate Engstrom, a 20-year-old in the school’s College Republicans, had other ideas. With the help of an unidentified collaborator, Engstrom approached Peterson after the event and recorded as he spoke candidly and controversially about losing the endorsement of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL).
Peterson bashed the group, calling MCCL “a bunch of extremists.”
Engstrom then uploaded the video on YouTube. Some 1,516 views later, Engstrom has managed to create one of the fiercest tempests in Concordia’s little teapot in quite awhile.
Has Engstrom been hailed as a hero for publicizing the raw, uncut statements of a sitting member of Congress running for re-election? Has she been lauded for her passion about politics and for exercising her right to free speech?
Of course not.
Instead, according to Engstrom, her adviser insisted on a hasty meeting and explained that the YouTube posting had angered various Concordia bigwigs.
Engstrom’s adviser also told her that Concordia’s president, William Craft, had had already apologized to Peterson. The Concordia administration confirms the apology.
“President Craft spoke to Rep. Peterson and expressed regret concerning what Rep. Peterson experienced on campus,” Concordia spokesman Roger Degerman told The Daily Caller.
Engstrom’s adviser also told her that Concordia’s president had suggested that she could face disciplinary action from the school for her actions.
Concordia’s administration equivocated when TheDC sought its side of the story.
“The college has a student code of conduct and set of policies,” Degerman explained. “In general terms, students may receive disciplinary action if they are in violation of the conduct code and policies.”
Engstrom told TheDC she has never been told what rule she may have broken. Degerman was unable to specify which little-known codicil among Concordia’s codes and policies the administration relied upon to threaten Engstrom with disciplinary action.
Concordia Director of Public Safety William MacDonald later called Engstrom to inform her that she wouldn’t face disciplinary action after all. According to Engstrom, though, MacDonald did say he thinks it’s wrong to upload unedited video on YouTube of a member of Congress speaking.
Engstrom alleges that MacDonald told her “It’s on your conscience.”
In the video, which was taken after the College Democrats event, an unseen female films Engstrom and Peterson. The two are first seen posing for what they seem to expect will be a still photograph.
Seconds later, the person holding the camera says, “Got it,” then continues filming, clearly holding the camera up and in generally the same place and position it was in while Engstrom and Peterson were posing.
The camera continues to record as Engstrom asks Peterson about the loss of the MCCL endorsement. Peterson responds by bashing the pro-life group. In addition to labeling MCCL “extremist,” he charged that the group’s stance on Obamacare is “the end of them as an organization.”
He also expressed relief that voters who oppose abortion are unlikely to hear that he lost the MCCL endorsement because only Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) reported it.
“Those people don’t listen to MPR,” Peterson said.
The Grand Forks Herald, a local newspaper, calls the video “surreptitiously recorded” because Engstrom failed to tell Peterson that his statements to a voter were about to be recorded.
Engstrom disagrees that any of her actions were covert.
“The camera was out,” she told TheDC. “You can tell from the angle it wasn’t surreptitious.”
“I just thought it was really important that people would know the truth of what Collin Peterson thinks,” Engstrom said, according to the Grand Forks Herald.
“I absolutely love my college,” Engstrom told TheDC. “I love my professors. I just think it’s ridiculous that I’m not allowed to ask a question without having the school’s reputation to worry about.”
Peterson is a conservative Democrat and an incumbent. He has represented Minnesota’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives for over two decades. According to Roll Call, Peterson breezed to re-election with 55.2 percent of the vote in 2010. Roll Call describes Peterson’s seat as “safely Democrat” in 2012.