ROCHESTER, Minn. — One corporation has asked for its donation back and another has pledged to no longer give to GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn over comments he made last month, saying Black Lives Matter and its "army of rioters" were at war with America and "Western culture."
Tech company Intel this week asked the Hagedorn campaign to return the $4,000 it donated in 2018 and pledged to refrain from future campaign donations to the first-term congressman, according to news sources.
UnitedHealth Group has made a similar promise, saying it regrets its past contribution to his re-election campaign, which has amounted to $7,500, new sources say.
"We were unaware of these egregious and hurtful statements attributed to Rep. Hagedorn and they in no way reflect the values of our company," UnitedHealth Group said in a statement.
The corporate blowback comes a month after a Facebook post by Hagedorn that some praised as a defense of Western culture and Christian values and others criticized as tone-deaf to the larger cause espoused by Black Lives Matter of ending racism and police brutality.
Hagedorn's post came in response to Twitter comments by activist Shaun King, who is aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement, after he called for images depicting Jesus as white to be torn down. He said such images are a form of white supremacy.
In reply, Hagedorn denounced BLM as a "radical movement" that is "orchestrated and growing. We must never let them take power. We must stand up and defend our country, our nation's identify, our Judeo-Christian values and our American way of life."
The debate over Black Lives Matter and what it stands for comes after the killing of George Floyd on May 25 while in Minneapolis police custody, a videotaped event that shocked people and sparked global demonstrations calling for an end to institutionalized racism. Some of those demonstrations have turned violent.
The actions, including those that have occurred in Rochester and smaller surrounding towns and cities, have brought together a range of ethnic and racial groups in defense of BLM's goals.
Hagedorn is running against DFL challenger Dan Feehan, who lost to Hagedorn by little more than 1,300 votes in 2018.
The revelation that Intel was seeking a refund was first publicly reported by Popular Information, a progressive news website.
On Wednesday, Popular Information posted a story noting that Hagedorn's 1st Congressional District is not far from where Floyd was killed. It said his rhetoric and history of "racist, sexist and homophobic screeds" were at odds with the values of racial justice and equality espoused by many of his corporate donors, including U.S. Bank, Intel and Best Buy.
It then proceeded to contact these businesses, seeking comment on why they had donated to Hagedorn's campaign. Intel was the only one to seek a refund.
"Several weeks ago, a national Black Lives Matter organizational leader encouraged the destruction of images of Jesus Christ and Christianity because, in his view, they represented white supremacy," Hagedorn said in a statement released to the Post Bulletin on Friday.
"I publicly responded by calling on the American people to reject such violence and destruction and stand up for America, our history, culture and the values we hold dear that make us the greatest country in the world. We are one nation, under God. I have and will continue to fight for liberty and equal justice under the law for every citizen of our country, no matter their race, religion or background, while rejecting extremist political rhetoric and tactics."
Brian Evans, the DFL Party's communications director, said there was no surprise that former supporters were "fleeing Hagedorn's campaign" after "he used hateful rhetoric to slander people working towards racial justice and equality."
"Instead of trying to unite Minnesotans around solving our shared problems, Congressman Hagedorn is hurling vile and inflammatory insults meant to divide communities for his political gain," Evans said. "Minnesotans should expect so much better from our political leaders, especially in times of crisis."