A weary Prime Minister Erna Solberg officially apologized “on behalf of the government” Wednesday evening “for rhetoric the government has used” that hurt and upset and many Norwegians. She was referring to how her justice minister, Sylvi Listhaug, accused the Labour Party late last week of putting the rights of terrorists above the interests of national security.
Listhaug’s printed statements on her Facebook page, emblazoned over the photo of armed and masked terrorists, enraged not only Labour and most all the others parties in Parliament but also victims of the terrorist attacks in Norway on July 22, 2011. Listhaug has refused to apologize herself but finally deleted the offensive photo and her charge against Labour, which was the target of the terrorist attacks, earlier Wednesday afternoon.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported prior to Solberg’s apology that Solberg had asked Listhaug to delete her defensive Facebook several times during the weekend but Listhaug initially refused to do so. Solberg said she would not comment on Listhaug’s alleged insubordination.
She told reporters at an impromtu press meeting, however, that “we need to be extra careful when we have a discussion on terror, because we have people in our society who have experienced terror in its most serious forms.” She admitted her government, in the form of Listhaug’s offensive claims, had not been careful enough.
Asked why she was the one apologizing and not Listhaug herself, Solberg said it was because Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre “asked me to clarify the situation, so it’s only natural I do so.” She claimed she still has confidence in Listhaug: “She is a good justice minister and has herself said that she has learned from this case. I think we have all learned that we must be careful with words tied to terror.” Newspaper Aftenposten reported before Solberg’s meeting with reporters that Listhaug also backed Solberg’s apology.
“I understand that statements made by ministers in the government (also Jan Tore Sanner made comments during the weekend he later regretted) have been hurtful for many,” Solberg said. “I will therefore say we’re sorry on behalf of the government to those we have hurt.”
Her comments came just hours after the Reds Party proposed a lack-of-confidence vote in Listhaug as justice minister. Labour leader Støre said it was striking that Listhaug did not apologize herself but he accepted Solberg’s apology.
“It took six days, and I think it’s still strange that the person who started all this, Sylvi Listhaug, has not said she’s sorry,” Støre told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “But I accept the apology from the prime minister. I think it’s important.” He indicated that the Parliament may still demand an apology from Listhaug herself.
Mani Hussaini, leader of the Labour Party’s youth organization AUF, which was a main target of the July 22 terrorist, said he was “relieved the prime minister finally understood the seriousness of the situation and comes with an unconditional apology to AUF, the Labour party, survivors and the families of victims of the attacks.”
He said many were still upset, though, and expect Listhaug to say she’s sorry, too. Støre also wrote on his Facebook page that it was “unworthy” of a justice minister to avoid being held accountable for her own political actions.