Scott Brown’s Top Ten Sexist, Homophobic, and Racially Insensitive Moments

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[Cross-posted from the ProgressMass blog.  Like ProgressMass on Facebook and follow on Twitter.]

Our Republican junior Senator, Scott Brown, has called on his main political opponent to apologize for having Native American heritage in her family.  Yes, you read that correctly.  In his desperate ploy to avoid discussing actual issues like his vote against the pro-middle class Buffett Rule or his vote supporting the anti-woman Blunt Amendment, Scott Brown has called on his main political opponent to apologize for having Native American heritage in her family.  It’s a scheme so ludicrous, it’s offensive, and so offensive, it’s ludicrous.

But since social crusader Scott Brown has decided to inject race, ethnicity and related topics into the discussion by ginning up a fake scandal with demands for an apology, it seems like an appropriate opportunity to run down Scott Brown’s top ten sexist, homophobic, and racially insensitive moments.  I wonder how many Scott Brown will apologize for.

10. Scott Brown Questions Whether President Obama Was Born In or Out of Wedlock

In 2008, before the million dollar book deal, before he was a U.S. Senator, Scott Brown was a state senator.  During that year’s Republican National Convention, Scott Brown appeared on a Comcast Network program to discuss Presidential politics.  And this happened.

Scott Brown: Quite frankly, Barack’s mom had him when- when, what- she was eighteen years old?

Other Guest: And married.

Scott Brown: Well, I don’t know about that. [uncomfortable laughter]

Hey, Senator Brown, do you also question the birth certificate of the first black President of the United States?

9. Scott Brown Declares “Thank God” She Kept Her Clothes On

On October 4, 2011, the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate held a primary debate.  At that debate, Republican activist Scott Conway asked the Democrats an honest, if loaded, question: “Brown paid for law school, in part, by posing nude for Cosmopolitan magazine, the candidates were told. How did they?”  Given how Republican Conway framed the question, Elizabeth Warren’s response began by noting a different approach from Brown’s, saying, “I kept my clothes on,” an honest, if quirky (given the framing of the question), response.

Two days later, on WZLX 100.7 FM (disclosure: my favorite classic rock station in Boston), Brown was asked if he “officially responded” to Elizabeth Warren’s answer.

“Thank God!” Brown said, laughing.

Scott Brown’s response is more befitting an immature 18-year-old frat boy than a U.S. Senator.  (FYI, we’ll be seeing a bit more of this on the list.)  You stay classy, Scott Brown.

8. Scott Brown Calls It “Not Normal” for Two Women to Raise a Child, Unclear If They Are “Two Mothers” or “Husband and Wife”

In the Fall of 2001, Scott Brown was a state representative.  The state senator for his district – who Brown would later succeed as state senator – was Cheryl Jacques, a lesbian who, at the time, had just announced that her partner was pregnant.  Well, Scott was awfully confused about how all that worked.

Although Jacques said the reaction to her domestic partner’s pregnancy has been “wonderful,” the Needham Democrat said she was stung by remarks attributed to state Rep. Scott Brown, R-Wrentham, in yesterday’s edition of Globe West. [...]

“I don’t know what their relationship is,” Brown said of Jacques and her partner, according to the Globe. “They’re certainly not married. There’s a difference of philosophy there. Are there two mothers there? Are they husband and wife?”

“It’s unusual for two women having a baby,” Brown also reportedly said. “It’s just not normal, in terms of what’s normal in today’s society.”

During an interview yesterday, Brown didn’t dispute the accuracy of the quotes, but he claimed the Globe didn’t report the “complete portrayal” of his comments.

I’d hope that, over the last decade, Brown had wised up some.  However, the next item on the list suggests that he hasn’t.

7. Scott Brown Labels LGBT Civil Rights Struggles as “Pet Projects”

Brown apparently thinks no pander is a bridge too far.  At least that is what was gathered from his April 4, 2012, guest column in “Bay Windows,” a publication that identifies itself as “New England’s largest publication for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender readers.”  Brown must have thought that he could tout his eventual vote for repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, meaninglessly throw the word “independent” around a couple times, try to turn the subject to the economy, and he might be able to sneak away with a few votes from the LGBT community, despite his overall poor record on LGBT issues.  It turns out that Brown couldn’t manage to get through a single column without insultingly dismissing the LGBT community’s struggle for civil rights:

I don’t come before you with a checklist of items promising that I will be an advocate for you on each and every one of them. My opponent has already started down that road, promising to support everyone’s pet project. That’s not the way I have ever operated.

The “checklist of items” to which Brown may have been referring is this blog post by Elizabeth Warren in the virtual pages of Blue Mass Group, in which Warren calls for the repeal of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).  It is utterly demeaning for Scott Brown to refer to these efforts for greater equality by repealing DOMA and passing ENDA – measures that, it should be noted, would have a significant impact on the economy and jobs – as “pet projects.”

6. Scott Brown Says He’ll Have Female Reporter “Dancing in the Back of the Truck”

Scott Brown, bringing the creepy to Boston Herald reporter Hillary Chabot less than a month ago:

The road yesterday took Brown to the Blue Hills Brewery in Canton, where the buttoned-down Wrentham Republican invited this Herald reporter to loosen up and sip brews from small sample cups.

“You can pound those pretty good,” Brown said as he tasted one of the lighter brews. His favorite was a hoppy beer called Red I.P.A.

“Sit down. Try this one. I’ve seen you in the bars before, don’t act like you’ve never been to a bar,” he said, sliding over a stool. “We’re gonna have her dancing in the back of the truck.

Brown then got behind the wheel of his dark green pickup and cruised to his next campaign stop.

Settle down.  Settle down.  I’m sure he’d tell a male reporter to dance in the back of his truck, too.  Bonus creepy points for Brown on this item because the Boston Herald link also includes video that captures Brown asking Chabot, “Wanna try another one?,” with Chabot replying, “No,” and Brown insisting, “One more.  One more.”

5. Scott Brown Refused to Join Rest of Massachusetts Congressional Delegation in “It Gets Better” Video

The facts speak for themselves:

In an act organized by his senior partner, Senator John F. Kerry, the 11 Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation made an “It Gets Better’’ video aimed at offering moral support to gay teenagers contemplating suicide or struggling with depression.

The 12th member of the delegation – [Republican Scott] Brown – declined to participate, prompting immediate questions when the video was released Wednesday.

I still haven’t seen Scott Brown offer an actual explanation as to why he refused to participate in this effort aimed at reducing teen suicide.  Maybe it has something to do with his right-hand-man, Eric Fehrnstrom, when under the guise of his rock-throwing “CrazyKhazei” Twitter handle, mocking the “It Gets Better” series.  If you’d like to view the heartfelt “It Gets Better” video starring the rest of the Massachusetts delegation, click here.  If you’d like to view Elizabeth Warren’s “It Gets Better” video, click here.

4. Scott Brown Says All He Has Learned from Women Was “How to Cook”

Earlier this year, Brown was receiving heavy criticism from all corners of Massachusetts over his anti-woman vote in support of the notorious right-wing Blunt Amendment (see item #2 below).  To deflect the criticism he was getting for his anti-woman voting record, he organized a “Women for Brown” event to highlight female supporters.  And then he managed to step all over his message with a sexist quip right out of a century-old etiquette manual.

Monday, when [Brown's wife Gail] Huff was asked for an example of something she and her daughters had taught her husband, he cut in. “How to cook,’’ Brown joked. [...]

When pressed by a reporter for a policy issue, neither came up with an example.

How quaint.

3. Scott Brown Voted Against Repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Before He Finally Voted for It

In his aforementioned “Bay Windows” guest column, repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was the one and only measure to which Scott Brown could point when noting anything legislative that he’s done in support of the LGBT community.  But, before finally coming around in December 2010, he had plenty of missed opportunities to exhibit leadership on behalf of the LGBT community.

Like in May 2010:

Sen. Scott Brown will vote against repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ when it comes up for a vote Thursday in the Senate Armed Services Committee, dealing a blow to gay rights advocates who were hoping the freshman Republican would support efforts to permit gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, The Globe’s Political Intelligence blog has learned.

Or in September 2010:

Senate Democrats attempting to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy were dealt a significant setback today, with Republicans, including Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, blocking action on the issue.

Finally, in December 2010, of his new-found support for repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” Brown said:

“I have been in the military for 31 years and counting, and have served as a subordinate and as an officer. … When a soldier answers the call to serve and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight. My only concern has been whether their service and sacrifice is with pride and honor,” Brown said after two days of Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on “don’t ask” and a Defense Department study of how repeal could be implemented.

Sure, that’s what Brown said in December 2010.  Hmmm.  I guess three whole months earlier, in September 2010, it still mattered to Brown “whether they are gay or straight” when a soldier “risks life or limb.”  Only after ample political cover did Brown’s concern all of a sudden become “whether their service and sacrifice is with pride and honor.”  It’s swell that, at long last, Brown came around on the issue, but that shouldn’t be confused with leadership.

2. Scott Brown Disregards Women’s Health When Supporting the Blunt Amendment

In a maneuver that caught many by surprise, Brown sided with the furthest right-wing elements of the Republican Party in support of the notorious Blunt amendment, named for chief sponsor Missouri Republican Roy Blunt.  Brown was roundly criticized by all corners of the Commonwealth.  Heck, when the Boston Globe and Boston Herald both run columns on the same day criticizing your position, you know you’re way out of the mainstream.

As Margery Eagan noted in that Boston Herald column:

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown has co-sponsored a bill that would allow health plans to deny coverage both for contraception and any service that violates the planners’ beliefs. […]

But let’s stick to the first part, contraception — not abortion, not the so-called morning after pill that prevents pregnancy — just contraception. It’s 2012, not 1950, not the Middle Ages. Contraception in 2012 is the routine method prescribed by doctors and used by hundreds of millions to prevent pregnancies or the abortions so many find repugnant. And I thought everybody was onboard with this, except nuts like Rick Santorum and the out-of-touch, elderly and celibate Catholic bishops who call contraception an “intrinsic evil.”

Now Scott Brown, who has so skillfully managed a reasonable and across-the-aisle Senate dance, has sided with nuts and the “intrinsic evil” set.

Surely he’s not sided with Catholic lay people. Many, if not most of them, have ignored the bishops on contraception since 1968, when the church first weighed in against it. Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women have used contraception. Even Sister Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Hospital Association, supports President Obama’s Friday compromise (allowing insurance companies, not religious institutions, to pay for contraception).

This is the Boston Herald printing that, in supporting the Blunt Amendment, Scott Brown has “sided with the nuts and the ‘intrinsic evil’ set” like Rick Santorum against women’s health, in a vote better suited for “the Middle Ages.”  Sounds about right.  Oh, and before someone comments that female Republican Senators also backed the Blunt Amendment – so it can’t be anti-woman, right? – let’s hear from one of the female members of the U.S. Senate’s Republican caucus about how she feels about her Blunt Amendment vote:

We talked for 45 minutes. What Murkowski told me I already suspected. She’s a moderate. She supports abortion rights and contraception coverage. She also doesn’t line up completely with the Catholic Church when it comes to birth control. She regretted her recent vote.

“I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me,” she said.

She’d meant to make a statement about religious freedom, she said, but voters read it as a vote against contraception coverage for women. The measure was so broad, it’s hard not to read it that way. I suspect Murkowski saw that, but for reasons she didn’t share with me, voted for it anyway.

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski says she’s never taken a vote “where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me.”  Scott Brown should take note.

1. Scott Brown Personifies Racial Insensitivity in 2005 Visit to Wayland High School

This item earns the #1 spot on the top ten list for obscurity (most people are probably unaware of it), for utter shock value over Scott Brown’s ignorance, and, most importantly, for how clearly Scott Brown exhibits racial insensitivity:

Dave Schmirer, a social studies teacher there, remembers Brown’s visit well. Schmirer had planned a series of debates for his and another civics class on the issue of gay marriage. He needed a speaker who opposed it and invited Brown. During the lecture, Brown drew the parallel that having him speak against gay marriage was like having a black student speak for Metco. “Don’t you agree?” he said, settling his gaze on one such student. Brown had no idea if that student was in Metco. (It turns out he was.) But the comment unsettled Schmirer. “It wasn’t racist,” he says. It just lacked a certain sensibility, a sensitivity, even.

In the next civics class, things got worse. Brown wondered aloud if Metco students had been brought to Wayland High as a potential boon to the athletics program. Now Schmirer wasn’t the only one who felt unsettled. Students, too, found the comments inappropriate, Schmirer says. They asked Schmirer to bring Brown back to explain himself. Brown returned about a week later.

He didn’t really know why he needed to return, despite Schmirer having spoken with the senator’s staff about this visit. So, even if Brown’s staff hadn’t relayed Schmirer’s message that the students wanted an explanation, Brown himself had failed to see the impact his comments had had on others. He’d walked out of Wayland High one week earlier without regret. “It was like [the incident] hadn’t registered,” Schmirer says.

In Scott Brown’s mind, of course the black student in a suburban school must have been a participant of Metco, a program designed to increase diversity; and, of course the black students in the Metco program must have been more focused on the athletics rather than the academics.  Honestly, this exchange is such a caricature that it seems more like a script for a workplace training video on racial sensitivity than it does real life!  And Scott Brown didn’t even realize he might be saying something racially insensitive.  It flew clear over his head.

So there you have Scott Brown’s top ten sexist, homophobic, and racially insensitive moments.  Exactly how many “isolated incidents” must there be before Scott Brown has demonstrated a pattern of insensitivity to gender, sexual orientation, and race?

As Brown absurdly seeks an apology from a political opponent for having Native American heritage in her family (it still seems nuts that he is asking for an apology!), perhaps he’ll reflect over this list that litters his record and start doling out some apologies of his own.


11 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I remember

    When brown voted to defund Metco (around the same time he went to Wayland High) because it meant funding it from the Dept of Corrections budget, which is a great source of support for Brown. He got a lot of angry letters and email and voted to fund it from a different source. He talked about his support for Metco for at least 6 months after.

  2. Wow, well stated

    on DADT: “It’s swell that, at long last, Brown came around on the issue, but that shouldn’t be confused with leadership.”


  3. Offering his daughters at his first national press conference

    I’m a father of three daughters, two grown, one a teenager. This was simply creepy. It was creepy then, it’s creepy now.

    (0:15-0:42 in the clip)

    And just in case to anybody’s who’s watching throughout the country, yes they’re both available. No, no, no, only kidding, only kidding. Arianna definitely is not available, but Ayla is.

    • and they're always garbed in prom-style dresses

      when on stage with him. his wife too. it could be their personal styles, but it’s pretty odd.

  4. Obama is our first black president?

    I thought Toni Morrison said Bill Clinton was.

    • Wow

      I wouldn’t want this guy as a coach in my town’s Little League, much less as a senator.

      sabutai   @   Wed 2 May 7:08 PM
  5. Stop repeating Brown's own words against him

    He likes the Red Sox–shouldn’t that be enough?

    • He wanted to close Fenway Park

      He just uses the Red Sox as a political prop: he evidently doesn’t really like them in themselves.

      • why should he?

        they’re a racist money grubbing corporate evil racket. how can you reconcile the red sox with your global warming or else rant from a couple weeks ago?

        what Brown did back then was throw the kibbosh on their strong-arm plan to make a new Fenway across the street from the old one, a huge expensive proposal that involved razing blocks. Brown said, well, if you’re gonna make a new park for the New England baseball team, it’d be cheaper to make it down here in my district, in the same town as the NFL stadium? You gotta admit it makes sense, in an Arlo Guthrie kind of way, especially given that the Red Sox plan involved the city buying tons of property or something like that, and down there they just had Everglades swamps or something.

        And it’s also the fact that by making that proposal, he effectively scuttled the New Fenway proposal, because there was no way to justify a new Fenway in the same quaint neighborhood rather than in a place more suited to host a professional sports team. It was a bluff, but they had to throw down their hand and accept staying in the old Fenway for as long as we can. We can’t justify wating energy on a new ball park.

  6. He took money from the Yankees

    Say it ain’t so Scott. Say it ain’t so… Barn Jacket Brown’s idea of bi-partisanship.

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