Rep. Gannon apologizes for obscene gesture on Assembly floor, doesn’t back down from his comments

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MADISON -- Rep. Bob Gannon (R-Slinger) has apologized for making an obscene gesture on the Assembly floor in Madison on Tuesday, January 12th -- but he's not backing down from the controversial comments that started the argument.

Minority Democrats were enraged after Gannon made the obscene gesture toward Senate Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha).

Barca rose on Tuesday to argue with Gannon over a news release Gannon issued last week complaining about Milwaukee's homicide rate and how more homicides occur in black neighborhoods with high unemployment rates.

The exchange went as follows:

Gannon: "If Milwaukee wants to export something, how about you export safety and jobs? Thank you Mr. Speaker."

Barca: "It's bad enough, Mr. Speaker, that this release comes out. If the gentleman's misunderstood, he can certainly stand up and apologize, and say 'look, I'm misunderstood. I didn't mean...' Did you just give me the finger? Mr. Speaker, I'd like to make a motion to reprimand him! He just stood up -- I'm sure WisconsinEye will plainly show him giving me the finger. What is wrong with you?"

The minority leader looked shocked after Gannon made the obscene gesture, and demanded Republican leaders reprimand him.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, hurried out of his office and whispered to Gannon, who then stood up and apologized for making what he called an improper gesture in the heat of battle.

Barca called the gesture a sad commentary on Gannon's leadership.

Here's what Gannon told FOX6's Theo Keith on Wednesday -- comparing Milwaukee to his home county, Washington County:

"We take our crime more seriously than they do -- obviously on a smaller scale, less population. I would say the statistics are clear that in Washington County you have a better chance of going to prison for heroin or dealing drugs or a violent crime than you would if you were arrested in Milwaukee County," Gannon said.

Gannon said he gave Barca the middle finger "in the heat of battle."

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Martha Laning released the following statement regarding the remarks defended by Rep. Gannon and the obscene gesture made by Gannon on the first Assembly session day of 2016:

"Representative Gannon should be ashamed to call himself a state representative in light of his actions (Tuesday). It is a sad day when doing the people's work in our state Capitol is interrupted by a legislator breaking the most basic rules of civility and decent behavior.

Rep. Gannon has apologized since (Tuesday)'s incident, but his refusal to apologize for his remarks about the city of Milwaukee and its residents remains unacceptable.

Rep. Gannon should apologize not only for his reprehensible actions on the Assembly floor, but for showing an outright dissrespect to the people of Milwaukee, the people of Wisconsin, and the people's house he is supposed to represent."

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