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Hovey apologizes for Giffords criticism

Updated 10:40 pm, Monday, January 7, 2013

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  • DebraLee Hovey Photo: Carol Kaliff / The News-Times
    DebraLee Hovey Photo: Carol Kaliff

 

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NEWTOWN -- State Rep. DebraLee Hovey issued an apology Monday for controversial remarks she made on her Facebook page telling former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to "stay out of my towns!"

Hovey, a Republican, in comments on her Facebook page over the weekend, said Giffords' visit to Newtown on Friday was politically motivated. The lawmaker also appeared to be upset that she wasn't told about the visit in advance.

" ... All political types KNOW it is courteous to let sitting Reps (representatives) know when another political is in their District," Hovey posted on her Facebook page.

While Hovey's Facebook page has since been placed on private, the Hartford Courant reported that Hovey, who represents Newtown and Monroe, posted a message saying, "Gabby Gifford (sic) stay out of my towns!!"

Hovey's Facebook posting has received broad coverage in state political blogs, drawing dozens of angry comments from readers.

When told about the comments Monday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said, "I don't own the state or the city I live in, and nobody has the right to say that type of thing."

The message was sent from Hovey's mobile device from Florida, days after Giffords met First Selectman Pat Llodra, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman during a planned meeting at the Newtown Municipal Center on Friday.

While Wyman and Blumenthal are Democrats, Llodra is a Republican.

Hovey said Monday she was in Florida attending a board meeting for the Women in Government organization when she sent the messages.

Friday's meeting in Newtown, which was closed to the press, was held shortly before Giffords met with relatives of those slain during the Sandy Hook massacre on Dec. 14 that took the lives of 20 children and six educators.

State Rep. Chris Lyddy, D-Newtown, who also wasn't invited to the meeting Friday with Giffords, said Hovey's comments were certainly "insensitive."

"Newtown is experiencing an outpouring of support from people throughout the country," he said. "Right now is a time to focus on what we can do to support the families affected by this tragedy."

Llodra said she has yet to speak with Hovey about her remarks but didn't want to rush to judgment about what the lawmaker said on the social media website.

"We are all operating at an emotional level that is unchartered territory for us," she said. "So many of us are dealing with emotions and pressures we haven't had to experience before."

She added that the meeting was organized by several town residents who had professional, and not political, ties to Giffords.

Newtown United, a group that formed shortly after the massacre to provide support to the community and helped to organize Giffords' visit, posted on its website that "for the avoidance of doubt, this is not a partisan or political issue. This is about turning the tide on gun violence."

Hovey issued a statement Monday calling her comments "insensitive" and apologized "if I offended anyone."

"My comments were meant to be protective of the privacy of the families and our community as we work to move on, and were in no way intended as an insult to Congresswoman Giffords personally," she said.

Blumenthal declined to comment on Hovey's remarks, but said Giffords' visit with family members on Friday was both "very inspiring and uplifting."

He adding that the former congresswoman spoke individually with the family members who were present.

"I was impressed by the strength, courage and caring of everyone who attended," he said.

dperrefort@newstimes.com; 203-731-3358; www.twitter.com/DirkPerrefort