Feminist Wins Apology From Ex-Legislator Over ‘Butch’ Comment
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Former state Sen. John Schmitz has publicly apologized to a feminist attorney for calling her ″a slick butch lawyeress″ in a news release, but the $20,000 settlement will be paid from state funds.
Schmitz’ apology to Gloria Allred and to Jews, homosexuals, women and others named in the 1981 news release, was read in court Thursday by Superior Court Judge Leon Savitch in a settlement of a $10 million defamation suit filed by Ms. Allred. The former senator did not appear in court.
″I apologize to Gloria Allred and to all others who may have been wrongfully characterized, hurt or harmed in any way by these statements,″ Schmitz wrote in the statement.
″Based upon my past relationships with Gloria Allred, her husband and her family, I have never considered her to be and recognize that she is not a ’slick butch lawyeress.‴
Schmitz took responsibility for a news release written by aide Brad Evans and issued Dec. 22, 1981, on his official stationery after Ms. Allred presented him with a chastity belt during hearings on a proposed anti-abortion measure.
It was headlined, ″Senator Schmitz and His Committee Survive ’Attack of the Bulldykes‴ and denounced witnesses as ″imported lesbians from anti-male and pro-abortion queer groups in San Francisco and other centers of decadence.″
It referred to the audience as ″a sea of hard, Jewish and (arguably) female faces,″and specifically attacked Allred as ″a slick butch lawyeress.″
Schmitz, a right-wing Republican and former member of the John Birch Society, gave up his state Senate seat in 1982 to run for the U.S. Senate in 1982. He was unsuccessful.
The $20,000 settlement will be paid from state funds, as will Schmitz’ $30,000 in legal bills, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner said today.
The Senate’s Rules Committee recently voted to pay for the settlement, despite the Senate’s censure of Schmitz, it reported.
″It’s an insult to the taxpayers,″ Ms. Allred said. ″The Senate Rules Committee should not be forcing taxpayers to pay for (former) Sen. Schmitz’ wrongful acts - the same acts which four years ago the Senate voted to disassociate themselves from. Sen. Schmitz should pay for this settlement himself.″
Sen. Nick Petris, who sits on the six-member committee, said that members voted in executive session a few weeks ago to settle the lawsuit because ″it would cost us more to try it and win it.″
The Senate stripped Schmitz of three of his posts after he issued the release and officially deplored his comments, but the Rules Committee secretly voted to pay the legal bills. The payments were halted for a time after the vote was made public, but resumed this year.
Ms. Allred said she would donate the $20,000 to groups involved in the dispute.
During deposition testimony, Evans said that Schmitz told him to ″blast Gloria Allred″ in the news release. But Schmitz attorney Donald Ruston said Thursday that Schmitz was unaware of the contents of the release when it was issued.
Schmitz had said the news release was meant to criticize the media for ignoring the abortion hearings and to focus on Ms. Allred’s dramatic presentation of the chastity belt.
Had he seen it before it was distributed he would have rejected it, he said in a deposition. ″You know, I’m a courageous guy, but I’m not a kamikaze pilot,″ he said.
But once the release was distributed, Schmitz said, he thought that he had to stand by it. ″If I’m a Marine Corps officer and a guy does something in my shop, I don’t go blubbering to my commanding officer and say, ‘It was Sgt. So- and-So who did it.’ I’ll say, ’Sir, it happened in my outfit.‴