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Ventura Uneasy By Lawmaker’s Touch

March 25, 2000

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Please, don’t touch the body.

Gov. Jesse Ventura and state lawmakers took after each other on the air Friday over the governor’s prickly reaction to being touched by a female lawmaker during a televised forum.

Ventura said on his weekly radio show that lawmakers would be ``passing sexual harassment laws″ and he ``would be paying hell for it″ if he had done the touching.

During the forum on KTCA-TV on Wednesday night, Ventura took umbrage with Republican Rep. Carol Molnau after she touched him several times during a debate about proposals for funding transportation projects.

Molnau tapped the governor’s leg and patted him on the arm to emphasize her points, prompting Ventura to exclaim: ``Don’t. Please, please, I’m not touching you.″

The next day, some lawmakers were sporting stickers that said ``Don’t touch me″ and snickering about the incident.

During airtime granted legislators each week to rebut Ventura’s hourlong show, Molnau said she was just trying to get Ventura’s attention. She said she stopped the touching when he protested, and she joked that she didn’t know the former professional wrestler known as ``the Body″ was ``that fragile.″

``Most people think that a touch on the sleeve or a touch on the shoulder or a pat on the back is a good thing,″ she said. ``But for the governor, I guess it’s not a good thing.″

Ventura said Molnau touched him about four times and he was uncomfortable about it. He also said he was disappointed that lawmakers made light of his sensitivity.

``Sexual harassment is not a one-way street,″ he said.

Democratic Sen. Dean Johnson, a Lutheran pastor who took part in the radio program with Molnau, said he didn’t think her actions constituted sexual harassment. Johnson also pointed out that Ventura has resorted to name-calling when lawmakers haven’t agreed with him.

``The office of governor is the highest political office in our state, and it deserves honor and respect,″ Johnson said. ``But governor, you have to earn it, and you have to keep it for your term of office.″

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