I realize that it seems like I am picking on women who are running for high office as Democrats: this is the third one within a week. It’s a coincidence, except that I have a growing suspicion that Democrats cynically sought out some female candidates for their gender and to hew to a theme rather than because they were especially well-qualified or even ready for prime time.
The current issue involves the Wisconsin governor’s race, where Mary Burke is opposing controversial, public union-battling GOP incumbent Scott Walker. Burke is running a 15-second pro-abortion ad (Walker is anti-abortion) starring Erin Forrest, the Jefferson County Democratic Party chairwoman. In 2013, Forrest — who then called Erin Sievert, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of domestic abuse, the first for battery and the second for disorderly conduct. In the criminal complaint, her husband said that she punched him in the eye and the groin, bit him on the shoulder, and ripped out one of his earrings. Prosecutors offered Forrest a deferred prosecution agreement in which she pleaded guilty to the charges in exchange for having them dropped later if she avoided further legal trouble and met other requirements. She did, and the prosecutors had the domestic violence charges dismissed as agreed.
Still, she agreed, by pleading guilty, that the charges were valid and described her conduct. This is far more than several of the NFL players currently losing millions of dollars and being pilloried in the media as violent lovers and vicious parents have done. Hmmm…..for which job is spousal violence more disqualifying? Throttling large athletes in armor who are paid to be clobbered and being a celebrated hero to sports fans, or being a women’s rights advocate, a role model for young women, and a representative of a candidate for Governor of Wisconsin?
Trick question! The answer is both. In addition, all those adjectives–clueless, insensitive, ignorant, careless-–being applied to NFL owners and the league’s leadership for not immediately recognizing that it is irresponsible for a hugely popular sport to act as if their players beating up children and women is no big deal, should also be applied with equal force to Mary Burke for not caring that a woman she designated as her representative battered (and bit) her spouse.
And she clearly doesn’t care. Burke’s camp’s rebuttal when someone raised the issue was (my comments in bold)…
- That Forrest is a “passionate advocate for women” This is the equivalent of the Baltimore Ravens saying “We can’t suspend Ray Rice for punching his wife—he’s a terrific running back!”…
- And that Forrest was “a victim of abuse.” Janay Rice punched Ray before he cold cocked her. Does that change the fact that he’s an abuser?
- “Shame on anyone who believes that either of those facts mean she should not have the same rights to express herself in a campaign as anyone else.” Oh, wow. A classic straw man! Nobody is arguing that she loses her rights to express her opinions just because she punches and bites her spouse. What critics are saying correctly is that a supposed feminist advocate for women like Burke should not be proudly associating with spousal abusers of either gender.
- Finally, this deceit: “Those aware of the full circumstances made the easy decision to dismiss these charges for a reason.” She pleaded guilty. That’s all we need to know. That’s all the NFL was supposed to need to know regarding Ray Rice, and all the other players are being suspended before they have admitted guilt or been found not guilty.
Ethics verdicts on Burke’s choice of spokesperon and public supporter and her defense of doing so:
1. Outrageous double standards on domestic violence.
2. Implicit endorsement of female on male violence.
3. Irresponsible campaign tactics.
4. Breach of integrity.
5. Dishonesty in public statements.