When New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Ivy League grad and member of the political elite club, destroys the legacy of a war hero, I call bulls--t. Gillibrand’s book is called "Off the Sidelines," and its “big tell” is the fact that a fellow senator once said something offensive to her about her weight.
This week it was revealed by the New York Times that the senior senator who offended Gillibrand by telling her not to lose "too much weight" because he liked his girls "chubby" was the late Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye.
Senator Daniel Inouye was awarded a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. But today, if you Google his name, that’s not what you read about. What you read about is Kirsten Gillibrand’s bad day.
Since the story came out, Gillibrand’s stock has risen, unfortunately at the expense of Inouye’s legacy. The late senator, who before was mostly revered as a war hero, now dominates Google searches in the category of sexism. What a shame!
Seems surprising to me that Gillibrand would make this revelation in her book, especially at such a high cost to somebody else’s reputation. The questions are obvious. For example, why did you not ask yourself, Kirsten, if it wasn’t just a bad attempt at humor by a man who was generationally disconnected from you? You couldn’t give him a break?
My wife is from the south. Moultrie, Georgia is just above Tallahassee and way below the sophistication of the big ATL — that’s Atlanta to you, Kirsten. Moultrie is where my wife introduced me to her grandparents, a courtly old woman named Lola and her husband M.L. Papa M.L. talked liked an 80-year-old southerner. He called me “Julio” because he thought it was funny. His jokes – certainly by today’s standards – were inappropriate and his language was beyond salty. He wasn’t a bad man, though. He was just old! Nobody in his family still thinks or talks that way, but he did. I wasn’t going to change him and neither was anybody else. Nor did he deserve to be called out or ridiculed for it.
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Next question for Senator Gillibrand: Were you shocked by the comments or were you simply feigning shock? I don’t know about you, but most of us out here in the real world are offended, scowled, shot the middle finger or given a Bronx salute every day. And that’s just in traffic on the way to work. Yes, people will say mean and offensive things from time to time. You should know that. You went to Dartmouth, isn’t that the school “Animal House” was based on? Just asking...
Finally, is this really the worst thing that ever happened to you? The most significant moment in your life is a sexist comment delivered by an 80-year-old man? It’s a given that what he said was obviously wrong and sexist, I’m not here to quibble with that, but really? That’s it?
Let me tell you about somebody else’s most significant moment. Let me tell you about what happened to Sgt. Daniel Inouye during World War II. Forbes' Victor Lipman, who once interviewed Inouye, shares this account.
“In April 1945, as a lieutenant and platoon leader, he was leading his men against a heavily fortified German line of defense in Tuscany, Italy. While leading a flanking maneuver, he was shot in the stomach from machine gun fire some 40 yards away. Refusing medical treatment, he proceeded to destroy two machine gun nests with hand grenades and his own machine gun fire. Collapsing from blood loss, he crawled toward the final machine gun nest when a German grenade severed most of his right arm. He somehow transferred his own grenade to his left hand and tossed it into the German bunker, destroying it. He was carried off unconscious, but awoke briefly to see some of his men checking on him, at which point he ordered them back to their positions, telling them, “Nobody called off the war!” He was awarded a Medal of Honor.”
Senator Daniel Inouye was also awarded a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. But today, if you Google his name, that’s not what you read about. What you read about is Kirsten Gillibrand’s bad day.