Following Apology, Harriman-Stites Calls Out ‘Sexist, Misogynistic’ Language In Bolinsky Facebook Post
Democratic Statehouse candidate Rebekah Harriman-Stites and many of her supporters were riled by a Facebook post generated Sunday, September 20, that she said contained “sexist and misogynistic” inferences.
The post, which said senior Newtown voters “...don’t need a pretty face & promises,” and that “they need a man of action,” lingered for several hours on the site promoting incumbent Republican State Representative Mitch Bolinsky before it was modified.
Harriman-Stites’s initial reaction was amplified during a brief appearance attended by a handful of supporters Tuesday, September 22, in front of Edmond Town Hall, where the challenger repeatedly noted she received an apology from the local lawmaker.
“I felt it was important to publicly address what has happened over the last couple of days,” Harriman-Stites said, relating the content of the post. “I, along with many women in this community, took offense to that statement.”
The challenger said “Representative Bolinsky’s team did change and edit the post after many women expressed disgust and outrage but Representative Bolinsky himself, in the first person, has not publicly apologized. Twenty-four hours after the post he did give me a phone call apologizing, where he said he ‘apologizes for the sloppy and inappropriate reference,’ and I do accept his apology.”
At 4:03 pm on Monday, September 21, The Newtown Bee received a media advisory from the incumbent lawmaker through his campaign that stated the social media post in question “contained an insensitive reference that is not representative of Representative Mitch Bolinsky, his values or his campaign.
“The post in question was written by a team member who used language that was gender insensitive. The campaign and Representative Bolinsky recognize this, apologize and, upon discovery, took immediate action to change the reference.” The advisory went on to say that, “Representative Bolinsky is strongly opposed to any and all types of discrimination,” and further stated, “No one was more disappointed than Mitch at the distraction caused by the flippant reference in question.”
Bolinsky is quoted saying, “This flippant, social media post runs counter to my history of focusing on issues and always taking the high road while campaigning.” The lawmaker went on to say he is “an unwavering believer in ‘The Golden Rule.’”
“The removed words are not at all a reflection of my values and how equality, inclusivity and respect have been central to my work and to my life. I apologize to anyone who was offended, that would never be my intention.” The lawmaker continued, alluding that the post was produced by a campaign communications volunteer.
He added that, “I will personally review each post, from this point forward. The buck stops here — and accountability begins with me.”
‘A Hard Thing To Talk About’
Harriman-Stites said, “While I accept his apology, I also think it’s important to understand why sexist and misogynistic comments should not be tolerated, especially in 2020 — Newtown is better than that.” The challenger then acknowledged she was shaking because “it’s a really hard thing to talk about as a woman. This really shouldn’t be happening.”
She continued, saying that as America celebrates the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment (prohibiting the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex), women are still subject to sexist and misogynistic comments like this.
“I believe Mr Bolinsky owes everyone an apology — all the countless women in our state and our community who are leaders of action, and who deserved to be judged on their character, their ideas, their actions, and nothing less,” Harriman-Stites said.
Taking a moment to assert her reasons for seeking Newtown’s legislative seat, the challenger also recognized the flags being flown at half-mast in recognition of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. “I know we’ve all heard her quote that women belong in places where decisions are being made,” Harriman-Stites said. “I agree with that and I hope you all do, too.”
The challenger repeated that she accepted Bolinsky’s apology and that she endeavored to “continue running a campaign centered on the issues Newtown cares about.”
“Don’t be distracted by emotions like anger, envy, and resentment,” Harriman-Stites said, quoting the late Supreme Court Justice. “These just zap energy and waste time.” The aspiring legislator then concluded saying, “We do not have time to waste.”
Responding to The Newtown Bee a few minutes later, Harriman-Stites said she hoped to return to focusing on issues, but pointed out that Bolinsky had not up to then reiterated his apology publicly on his social media site. That was remedied just before 1 pm on Tuesday when Bolinsky’s apology was posted on his campaign Facebook page, replacing the modified statement previously directed at Newtown seniors.
In an related occurrence, following her remarks around 10:20 am, Tuesday, Harriman-Stites was approached by a woman in a mask who was later identified as Luisa Bolinsky, the lawmaker’s wife. While a brief interchange between the two in close proximity appeared civil, Mrs Bolinsky suddenly turned away and stated loudly, “Keep spreading lies.”
Harriman-Stites said she was confused by the statement. “I kept asking her what lies,” she said.
Harriman-Stites then said she reached out and spoke to Rep Bolinsky directly after the confrontation thanking him for his apology, which she said he left late Monday on her voicemail, because at the time of that initial contact, she was in a meeting and could not take his call.
Harriman-Stites said during the call that she had a “nice conversation” with the incumbent, and said she was looking forward to engaging over community and state issues during the upcoming Newtown Bee Friday Forums webcast scheduled between the two candidates at noon Friday, September 25.