Gov. Rendell of Pennsylvania fumbles over his thoughtless remarks about unmarried people.
Gov. Rendell of Pennsylvania, who has been episodically afflicted with the political “Open-Mouth-Insert-Foot” syndrome, experienced another goof during the National Governor’s Association meeting in Philadelphia when he said Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano has “no life.” The wire services were immediately on fire with the news.
Known for publically making inappropriate remarks, this time his imprudent comments were uttered in what was meant to be a private conversation. What he didn’t realize was that his comments were being picked up by a nearby microphone.
Talking about President-elect Obama’s choice of Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (who is not married and has no children) for chief of Homeland Security he said, “Janet’s perfect for the job … for that job you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19, 20 hours a day to it.”
The story broke on CNN and then went wheeling off through other media outlets. Campbell Brown, CNN political anchor offered her thoughts, “If a man had been Obama’s choice for the job, would having a family or not having a family ever have been an issue? I know what you meant to say, but your comments do perpetuate stereotypes that put both mothers and single women in boxes.” Brown also addressed Rendell’s assumption that not being married or having a family means that you have “no life.”
Rendell’s remarks unleashed a flurry of controversy. Initially unapologetic about his remarks, he later said, “I guess if you stretch it, it could be taken by some people the wrong way. I certainly didn’t mean it like that. Janet is a friend of mine, and a great, great governor, and she’ll be a great Director of Homeland Security. And if anyone out there was offended, I apologize. But you could say the same thing about me.”
Through a spokeswoman, Napolitano said she appreciated the confidence that Rendell had shown in her and did not comment as to whether she thought the comment was sexist or insensitive.
When queried about the comments, Karen Bojar, National Organization for Women, Philadelphia chapter, said that Rendell’s comments were somewhat offensive on two fronts. “He implies that people without partners or without children don’t have a life. Of course they might have a very rich and deep life with extended family and social connections,” she said. “He also implies that having a family disqualifies a woman from having a high-powered job. This is never an issue with a man.”