Comptroller William Donald Schaefer was unapologetic yesterday after making suggestive comments to a young female aide to the governor during a meeting of the state Board of Public Works.
The incident sent some jaws dropping and drew laughter from others in the crowd of more than 100 state officials, lobbyists, journalists and business leaders attending the session.
Yes, because it’s so amusing when your boss humiliates you and lets you know what you’re *really* there for in front of 100 influential people. Real knee-slapper, there:
Responding to Schaefer’s request for tea, the woman, an executive assistant in Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s front office, set down a thermal mug in front of the comptroller. Schaefer, 84, watched her walk away, then beckoned for her to return. When she obliged, he told her, “Walk again,” staring after her as she left a ceremonial conference room at the State House.
Oh, no. It wasn’t enough to simply ogle the woman. He had to show her that he had power over her and put her in her place — which, he apparently felt, was that of a sexbot.
He was, of course, called on this bullshit because not everyone in the room found his behavior so endearing. Check out his response:
“That’s so goddamn dumb, I can’t believe it,” Schaefer said when asked about the appropriateness of his remark. “She’s a pretty little girl.”
She “ought to be damn happy that I observed her going out the door,” Schaefer said. “The day I don’t look at pretty women is the day I die.”
Yes, she ought to be damned happy to be humiliated and reminded that no matter how hard she works or how talented she is, there will always be some guy with the power to fire her staring at her ass.
And once again, we see that being called out on sexual harassment is much, much worse than being subjected to sexual harassment:
The comptroller briefly broke away from reporters to talk to the woman in private, but returned to say he had not apologized.
“The one who’s offended is me,” he said, for being subjected to questions about the encounter.
The woman’s father’s reaction to the incident is rather revealing, both of the political culture that tolerates this old fart’s lewdness with a wink and a nod, and of his own attitudes about sexual harassment:
Reached at home last night, the assistant, Elizabeth Krum, 24, declined to discuss the matter. But her father said he feels the incident was “sexual harassment on the job.”
“We’re very, very upset about this,” said Allen Krum, a science teacher from Towson. “It seems that just because he’s older, he’s tolerated by the Democrats and Republicans.
“It’s all fun and games until it’s your own daughter, and then it’s not fun anymore,” Krum said.
Fun and games, indeed. Spoken like someone who’s never had to think about this shit.
Make no mistake, this kind of “compliment” is meant to shame, embarrass and put the woman into her place. When I was younger, I had a few experiences where I was already nervous enough about, say, interviewing a public official when I still felt like I didn’t know enough to do my job, and he started off the interview with some comment about my eyes or my clothes or something just inappropriate enough to feel humiliating but not inappropriate enough that I felt I could say anything. It was definitely meant to throw me off my guard and remind me who was in control of the interview. At least in those few instances, I didn’t have a huge audience to bear witness to my humiliation.
The governor airily dismissed the incident involving his close pal:
Ehrlich has cultivated a close personal and professional relationship with Schaefer and relies on the comptroller’s vote on the three-member board to enact many of his spending priorities.
The governor left the conference room at the end of the meeting without commenting, but later in the day said he heard that Schaefer had tried to make amends.
“He peeked his head into my office and told the women who work in my front office he certainly did not want to insult anybody, that was not his purpose, and that was the end of that,” Ehrlich said.
Yes, I’m sure the women in your front office are mollified by that. Because I’m sure this guy doesn’t have a history of treating the little people like shit:
Schaefer, who is expected to run for re-election this year, is well-known for his often uncouth public statements, particularly during his opening monologues of the twice-monthly public works meeting. He has railed against McDonald’s employees who speak limited English and people with AIDS, and has long called the women with whom he works “little girls.” He’s also known to berate state officials attending the meetings.
Schaefer launched his customary monologue at the start of the meeting by saying that if anyone in the crowd had an anniversary that day, he or she should stand.
Elizabeth “Billie” Grieb, president of the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, announced that it was her third wedding anniversary. He told her to sing “Happy Anniversary” to herself. At first she demurred, but Schaefer insisted. After Grieb started to sing, he let her sit.
Through spokeswoman Lainie Contreras, Grieb said Schaefer is an old friend and a zoo supporter, and that she took no offense.
Meanwhile, Martha Smith, president of Anne Arundel Community College, reported to the board that her school was recently ranked first in a national survey.
“How do you feel?” Schaefer asked.
“I feel great,” Smith replied.
Schaefer responded, “You look great, too.”
Hat tip to Pam at Pandagon.