As potential presidential candidates — because no one has formally announced yet — gear up for what will undoubtedly be an interesting race in 2016, one Republican party hopeful has made a questionable hire in the form of Jamie Johnson, after it was revealed that the new Rick Perry aide sent previously sent a sexist email saying a female president would harm children's lives.
On Monday, the former Texas governor and possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate hired Johnson, a longtime Republican activist in Iowa, ordained minister, and former radio broadcaster as a top campaign staffer to help Perry organize social and economic conservatives in Iowa and other early states. In 2012, while he served as Rick Santorum's Iowa coalitions director, The Des Moines Register reported that Johnson had sent an email in 2011 claiming that children's lives would be in danger if the country had a female president. The email also read:
The question then comes, "Is it God’s highest desire, that is, his biblically expressed will, … to have a woman rule the institutions of the family, the church, and the state?"
When contacted by The Guardian, Johnson said it was a private exchange with a friend in his capacity as a pastor, that his words were taken out of context, and that it was not intended to be shared publicly. He pointed to Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher as formidable female leaders and said that the comment was about "theological nuances."
However, Johnson's remarks are in line with the a sexist attitude held by many extreme social conservatives and the Evangelical right. Santorum ultimately beat the sole female Republican presidential contender in 2012, Michele Bachmann, in the Iowa caucuses, but according to The Register, her team privately complained of sexism among Iowa's conservatives spurred by Santorum's campaign. Writing to Buzzfeed as news of the email broke in 2012, Bachmann's former Faith Outreach Director, Peter Waldron, noted:
There is reason to believe that Senator Santorum’s campaign deployed a sexist strategy against Michele Bachmann among IA Evangelical pastors, value-voters, and home school parents. I don’t know if Mr. Johnson considered the consequences of his statements or was actually saying that the 100+ female members of Congress, sitting Supreme Court justices, governors, state, municipal and local elected female officials resign!! However, it does reveal a strong conviction held by key IA campaign advisor to the Senator.
That Johnson's allegedly private correspondences were made public raised the questions of whether political staffers' remarks are legitimate targets in an election campaign. One influential female GOP operative who declined to be named told The Guardian that while she "vehemently disagrees" with Johnson's email, his personal opinions don't necessarily indicate that he's the wrong person for the job. She also added that "everything" about staffers was fair game now.
But my question is this: "Theological nuances" or not, in what context is saying a female POTUS would endanger children's lives be justifiable? While his beliefs might not disqualify him from Perry's team, it is cause for concern, especially taking into account Perry's own behavior in the past — remember when he gallantly corrected his wife after she said that abortion "could be" a woman's right? Or when he suggested that Wendy Davis' single motherhood should have taught her that abortion is wrong? Or when he dismissed the debate for equal pay for women in Texas as "nonsense" and not one of the "substantive issues"?
Image: Getty Images (2)