If a male candidate calls a female candidate “an idiot,” does that make him a sexist? What if a woman calls another woman “an idiot”?
Frankly, I’m guessing a lot of candidates think their opponents are idiots, especially this close to the election. They just refrain from saying it publicly.
Larry Brown was not so discreet.
The Las Vegas city councilman, after a joint appearance with Assemblywoman Valerie Weber, his opponent in the race for a County Commission seat, answered a question from a Las Vegas Sun reporter, and now Weber is assailing him as a sexist.
Let’s put it in context.
The two appeared on KLVX-TV, Channel 10, on Oct. 16 and were given the chance to ask one question of the other.
Brown said he didn’t have a question for her.
Watching from home, I took it as a put-down, an implication she wasn’t worthy of questioning. He now says it was a strategy. He didn’t want to use a question to beat up on her, plus she has a tendency not to answer the question, so he didn’t want to give her an opportunity to go off on a tangent. He wasn’t being disrespectful, he insists.
The question she asked of him was convoluted but boiled down to: How do you explain your failure to bring a major sports team to Las Vegas?
After saying her premise was “fraught with mistakes,” he basically said it’s too early for a major sports team because the local population isn’t large enough.
I thought it wasn’t fair to blame Brown especially because the biggest cheerleader for a sports team and an arena has been Mayor Oscar Goodman. Brown has cautioned against using tax dollars to build an arena.
But here’s the kicker. When the Las Vegas Sun asked Brown about Weber’s question, he called it “a goofball question” and then added, “I felt like saying: You’re an idiot.”
He didn’t say that directly to Weber, a GOP assemblywoman for six years. He didn’t say it on air. He said it to a reporter with a tape recorder.
When Weber read the quote in Tuesday’s newspaper, she was stunned.
“I’ve been in public office for six years. Being called an idiot is hurtful, dismissive and disrespectful,” she said. “I felt it was a tone of hatefulness toward women and he was being misogynistic.”
Brown insisted he was referring to the question she asked, not calling her an idiot.
“Name calling is not part of my politics,” he said.
I asked a couple of women I know who deal with Brown if they think he’s a sexist and was told no. He’s married with two daughters of his own. The former professional baseball player is “a guy’s guy” and can be patronizing and condescending, but it’s not related to sexism, I was told.
Weber contends that throughout the campaign, Brown, a Democrat elected to the City Council in 1997, has been patronizing.
“He appeared to be annoyed to be in the debate at all,” she said.
However, they have been together in at least five joint appearances, so he’s not ducking her.
“I believe he has been dismissive of me as a woman,” Weber said. “He somehow believes he’s the heir apparent going to the commission,” she said, describing it as a tough-to-get-into boys club, although two commissioners are women.
Brown is offended at her accusation he is sexist. “It’s not part of who I am or my character.” He denied feeling contempt for Weber and said, “I’ve always been respectful, and I’ve never been dismissive.”
Actually, he did appear dismissive of her during that debate. I thought so, and the Review-Journal reporter on the scene described it that way.
However, just because you think you’re smarter than the other candidate doesn’t make you a sexist if you’re a man and she’s a woman.
The “idiot” quote left the impression that Brown feels contempt for Weber, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s based on her being a woman.
It’s not like he called her “a dumb broad.” When readers call me that, it’s sexism. When they call me an “idiot,” it’s commentary on my commentary.
Idiot is gender-neutral, but Larry Brown would have been smarter not to use it.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275.