State Sen. Pat Wiggins, making her first public comments since her interruption of a pastor with an expletive a week ago, said Wednesday in her Capitol office that she regrets the remark, calling it a misunderstanding.
"I blurted out something I didn't mean to," the 68-year-old Santa Rosa Democrat said.
Wiggins has been under pressure to publicly comment on the exchange, in which she uttered the word "bull----" while interrupting the pastor during an otherwise mundane capitol hearing last Wednesday on global warming.
The senator's words -- and the pastor's shocked reaction -- gained widespread notoriety, thanks to a video of the incident being posted on the Web file-sharing service YouTube, the repository of so many political gaffes.
Wiggins and her supporters defended the exchange as an isolated incident while extolling her work as a legislator. Others, however, provided more troubling examples of her reportedly brusque, sometimes odd behavior in recent months -- behavior that has caused concern about the senator's emotional stability.
Wiggins on Wednesday flatly denied that she has any medical conditions that might explain the sudden outburst. Regarding concerns about her ability to recall things, the senator said she has trouble remembering faces but makes up for the deficit by "being friendly."
At Wednesday's interview in her office, the reporter's name was written on a legal pad placed in front of Wiggins.
Her aides, aware there are concerns the senator has to rely on business cards and statements written in advance for her because of perceived memory issues, said writing the reporter's name down is standard practice, one used by many senators who deal with dozens of people during the course of the day.
The 15-minute interview, held after a morning in which Wiggins garnered passage of bills related to Spud Point Marina at Bodega Bay and identity theft, started with the senator pushing a remote control for a TV across, and off, the table. "Put that somewhere," she said to aides who were in the room with her.
Asked what Pastor Robert Jones of Sacramento's Oak Park United Methodist Church said in his short introduction to his testimony last Wednesday that raised her ire, Wiggins replied, "I thought he was off base, but he might not have been. I'm not sure."
Asked about reports that she berates her staff over trivial matters, Wiggins stated, "I have never berated staff, ever. It never happened. Never."
She then apologized to the reporter for raising her voice. "I'm sorry. I'm getting upset. I didn't mean to be," she said.
Sources who had told The Press Democrat they were present at a meeting where Wiggins "flew off the handle" at a staffer over an inconsequential matter, reaffirmed Wednesday their initial descriptions of the incident.
The senator's staff said the office has received hundreds of angry e-mails and phone calls regarding the controversy with the pastor.
Wiggins, however, said she hadn't heard from anyone, and thus could not answer a question as to how she thinks the public should interpret what she said to the pastor.
While taking one such phone call placed to the senator's office Wednesday, her receptionist said, "I'm sorry, sir. I don't know what her state of mind was." He then took down the caller's name and number and said someone would be returning the call.