Decades-old controversy hangs over Republican’s candidacy for governor

A day after announcing his candidacy for governor, Republican Rich Stanek is still facing questions about a deposition from nearly 30 years ago during which he was asked about his use of the “n-word” racial slur. It was that deposition that resulted in former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty pressuring Stanek to resign as Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner in 2004.

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“I did not use that word,” Stanek told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Tuesday. “That lived in infamy with the media. I did not use it.”

An attorney in a civil case questioned Stanek about whether he’s ever used the “n-word” during a deposition on June 15, 1992, in Minneapolis. The attorney asks Stanek, “Have you ever used the word in quotes, “n-(blank)?” To which Stanek replies, “Yes.” Stanek goes on to say, “I used the term several times within the last month or so during a court case,” but only when describing what other people said.

In a follow-up question, the attorney asks, “Have you used that term when you were not quoting what somebody else said, but merely expressing your own thoughts or words?” To which Stanek replies, “Yes.”

From there the deposition gets fairly confusing and Stanek appears to backtrack at times. Eventually, the attorney asks, “Do you think it’s inappropriate to use such words when you’re expressing your own thoughts and opinions?” Stanek replies, “I think it’s inappropriate to use that word when I’m out in public. When I’m in the confines of my own home or my friends, then I think it’s my business.”


A portion of the deposition that includes those segments was distributed to the media by the Alliance for a Better Minnesota — a Democratic organization focused on opposing Republican candidates for public office.

“Rich Stanek only just announced his candidacy for governor… and he’s already lying and refusing to take responsibility for his harmful, offensive actions,” said Executive Director of Alliance for a Better Minnesota Marissa Luna. “Stanek can lie about his past, but it only continues to prove that he is wrong and dangerous for Minnesota.”

In an interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in 2004, Stanek didn’t deny the existence or contents of the deposition.

“The deposition has been in the public domain for 12 years,” he said in an interview on “At Issue with Tom Hauser” in April of 2004. “ I’ve been through five election cycles, I’ve been promoted four times as a Minneapolis police officer. It’s always been there. It’s never been hidden.”

Stanek responded with a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Wednesday afternoon:

“During my 38 years in law enforcement, I saw and heard things that no one should ever be subjected to, but that is part of the job of our first responders. Because of that, I would have to recite things that others would say, whether it be in court, during a deposition, or a meeting with prosecutors, but I have never used racial slurs when conducting my duties as a police officer with the community that I proudly served. Additionally, I was never disciplined during my 38-year public safety career. Not when I started my public safety career with the Cottage Grove Police Department, nor with the Minneapolis Police Department, or the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.  The DFL has been taking a deposition that I gave (nearly 30 years) ago, related to a civil litigation case, out of context for nearly 20 years. The fact that the DFL is spreading inaccurate information about me that they have taken out of context, on day one, shows just how worried they are about my ability to beat Governor Walz in November.”