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Rep. Peterson recording prompts apology from Concordia

Rep. Collin Peterson

MOORHEAD - Concordia College President William Craft has told Congressman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., he regrets the way a recent conversation Peterson had with a student on campus was recorded.

Kate Engstrom, the student involved, said she was asked by campus officials to consider apologizing as well, but she has not, deciding she has done nothing worthy of an apology.

Engstrom, president of Concordia College Republicans, said her campus adviser contacted her after a story appeared in The Forum on Oct. 18 regarding a video she and a friend made of a conversation Engstrom had with Peterson following an event on campus attended by a group of Democrats.

The conversation occurred after Peterson, who is seeking his 12th term in the House, posed for what he thought was a photograph with Engstrom,

Asked by Engstrom what he thought about the loss of an endorsement by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, an anti-abortion group that has supported him in the past, Peterson said MCCL was being "a bunch of extremists."

Engstrom said her adviser told her Craft wanted to know her side of what happened in order to evaluate whether it warranted disciplinary action.

She said she provided that information and after several days without hearing from anyone she emailed Craft to find out what was going to happen.

Engstrom said she received a call from William McDonald, the school's director of security, who told her there would be no repercussions from the incident.

She said when she asked if she would be required to apologize, McDonald said no, "but that it was between me and my conscience."

Engstrom said she took offense at McDonald's words.

"The implication that I had done something wrong is just ridiculous," Engstrom said, adding that she has been taking heat from some who question how the recording was done.

"That (original Forum) article talked over and over about how Collin Peterson didn't know he was being recorded, but the camera was out the entire time, so it was pretty obvious that it was there, if he had looked at it," she said.

"I mean, yes, I don't think that he noticed it. But it definitely wasn't some secret, sneaky thing," Engstrom added.

She said too much attention is being paid to how the conversation was recorded and not enough to what Peterson said.

"I don't think they (school officials) should have gotten involved in something that, to me, is so straightforwardly a freedom of speech issue," Engstrom said. "I think asking me to apologize is just out of bounds."

In response to questions, Concordia spokesman Roger Degerman issued a written response Friday that read in part:

"The videotaping incident that occurred at Concordia during a recent visit by U.S. Representative Collin Peterson provides an important learning opportunity for the entire campus community.

"Neither the college, nor its administration, takes positions on political candidates and/or their ideologies," the statement said.

"Concordia encourages dialogue and debate from all points of view - marked by thoughtful, respectful and forthright interaction.

"Our engagement with all campus guests - regardless of their views - should reflect such consideration," the statement said.

It concluded by stating Craft had spoken to Peterson "to express regret for the manner in which a recording was made during the representative's visit to campus."

The statement said there would be no disciplinary action related to the incident and no one would be required to apologize.

A message left for Peterson seeking comment had not been returned by the time this story went to print.