Sen. Boxer Offers No Apology for Rebuking Brigadier General Who Called Her 'Ma'am'

Published June 19, 2009

| FoxNews.com

She may be a lady and a senator, but don't expect an apology from Barbara Boxer for making the distinction to an Army brigadier general this week.

Aside from a briefly worded statement about a "friendly" conversation she had with Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh after dressing him down for calling her "ma'am," Boxer remained silent Friday in the face of growing calls for her to apologize.

"Senator Boxer spoke with General Walsh yesterday and he said he was fine with her comments at the hearing," Boxer spokesman Zachary Coile said in a statement sent Friday to FOXNews.com. 

"It was a very friendly conversation and they reiterated their respect for each other and how much they look forward to working together," he said.

The controversy began when Walsh, with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, was testifying during a hearing before Boxer's Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and he summoned the audacity to call the California senator "ma'am."

Boxer immediately interrupted him before he could answer one of her questions.

"You know, do me a favor," a clearly agitated Boxer said. "Could you say 'senator' instead of 'ma'am?"

"Yes, ma'am," Walsh replied.

"It's just a thing, I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it, yes, thank you," she said.

"Yes, senator," he answered.

But Walsh was following military protocol, which advises officers to use "sir" or "ma'am" when addressing anyone higher than them on the chain of command..

The Pentagon refused to jump into the fray Friday. 

"The matter was between the two and we have nothing to add," Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said in a statement to FOXNews.com.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars supported both Boxer and Walsh and downplayed the exchange.

"The general is 100 percent correct in responding to members of Congress with 'Sir' or 'Ma'am.' The senator, on the other hand, is also correct, though probably everyone now agrees that this should have been handled differently, if at all," the group said in a statement. 

"There are far more important issues facing America -- from national security to the proper care and treatment of veterans, military service member and their families -- and this difference of opinion in salutations is not one of them."

But the National Republican Senatorial Committee tried to take political advantage of the incident by collecting signatures on a petition reprimanding Boxer.

"All of our military men and women deserve more dignity than to be on the receiving end of condescension and disrespect, especially at the hands of our elected officials," the organization wrote in an e-mail. 

Click here to watch the Boxer-Walsh exchange.

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http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/06/19/sen-boxer-offers-apology-rebuking-brigadier-general-called-maam