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The webmaster of an east suburban Republican legislative district posted a provocative video on the district's website this week arguing that GOP women are hot and Democratic women are not.
So provocative, in fact, that it sparked a firestorm of response and was yanked from the website in less than a day. The video prompted leaders from both parties to call it "inappropriate" and demand an apology.
The furor intensified as Mother Jones magazine, Entertainment Weekly and other national news organizations wrote on the dustup in a Senate district that includes Woodbury, Stillwater and Lake Elmo.
The video has been circulating on the Internet since at least February, but this appears to be the first time it landed on a political party's official website.
The nearly five-minute video starts with crooner Tom Jones' "She's A Lady" and a slide show of Republican women such as U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Bo Derek. The photos range from professional portraits to steamy beach shots.
To portray Democratic women, the montage cuts to the raucous, "Who Let the Dogs Out?" by Baha Men. Viewers see a toothy, stunned Michelle Obama, a digitally altered Time magazine cover with Janet Reno as "Man of the Year" and Rosie O'Donnell's head pasted on the hairy body of Sept. 11 terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
"This video is sexist and offensive," DFL Party Chair Brian Melendez said in a statement. "I call on SD56 Chair Joe Salmon and State GOP Chair Tony Sutton to apologize for this sexist video. The day when a woman was judged by her looks rather than her competence and intelligence should have passed three generations ago. But apparently Republican leaders in the year 2010 still think of that bygone era as the good old days, and want to bring it back."
He noted that District 56 is represented entirely by women in Congress and the Legislature.
Melendez wasn't the only one heaping criticism. Republican state House candidates Kathy Lohmer and Andrea Kieffer, who are running in District 56, also demanded an apology by the district's webmaster, Randy Brown.
"It was poor judgment and a very juvenile attempt at, I don't know, a laugh," Kieffer said.
Lohmer said the incident was "terrible and very unprofessional."
She described Brown as "a great person," but said "he made a mistake and thought something was funny that wasn't."
Sutton noted that the state party has no involvement in the district's website, nor are party leaders pleased with what happened.
"I think the intent was not malicious, but certainly it was inappropriate," he said.
Brown and Salmon, the district chairman, did not return repeated messages seeking comment.
Brown told the Minnesota Independent earlier this week that the video was a light-hearted stab at injecting levity in the election season. "[I]ts only intention was to bring a smile to a few people's faces, and possibly irritate a few others. Is it fair? Does that matter? It wasn't intended to be fair. It was intended to be funny," said Brown, 67, of Woodbury.
Similarly, Salmon, on his Twitter account Tuesday, wrote that it was "unfortunate to relearn that the other side is severely lacking a sense of humor."
A year ago, District 56 Republicans put out a newsletter saying they were close to launching a new cable television program "to attract female viewers." The newsletter noted that women outnumber men at the polls and "the startling fact is that more than 75 percent of them vote Democrat!"
Debra Fitzpatrick, director of the Center on Women and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the sultry picture of Heather Locklear in the video should be equally as troubling as the image of a startled Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"Portraying women as either sexually attractive or sexually unattractive demeans their leadership ability," she said. "I think it's important for leaders within the political realm to stand up and say this isn't OK."
Baird Helgeson • 651-222-1288