Calling a black man the n-word, in jest or not, or just to be risque, can mean the end of a person’s career.
Calling a woman a whore, accidentally or not, even during a public campaign event, evinces a collective yawn, especially if you are a Democratic man saying it in reference to a Republican woman, or a popular Democratic candidate period.
State Sen. Vincent Sheheen would have dropped out of the governor’s race by now if his verbal gaffe included the n-word instead of whore.
That would be true no matter how accidental his supporters and objective observers declared it to be.
It would be true even if world-renown linguists and neuro-scientists explained that a similar-sounding word at the end of his sentence triggered an automatic response in a brain that is sometimes too quick to link and categorize things in ways we don’t like, resulting in verbal gaffes.
His promising political career would be as dead as George Allen’s.
Had Sheheen been a Republican, his use of the word whore would have women’s groups screaming and be declared the latest front in the war on women.
His legislative record, more impressive than the one Gov. Nikki Haley cultivated while she was in the General Assembly, wouldn’t matter.
His character wouldn’t matter.
That there is no history of his using such words wouldn’t matter.
Noting his long marriage to a woman to mitigate the damage would be taken as a cruel joke.
His supporters have tried to explain it a way as an unfortunate gaffe that he corrected by saying “her” instead of whore in the next sentence - all the while knowing they would have not cut slack for a Republican who committed the same sin.
That’s politics, frequently shallow and hypocritical.
What’s worse is that some are trying to explain it away by referring to the ugly personal allegations Haley had to fight off 4 years ago, suggesting that even if it revealed Sheheen’s true thinking, it was based in fact, as though Haley had somehow earned the label.
She has not. If this is a test of character, it is about Sheheen’s, not Haley’s.
His supporters couldn’t bring themselves to admit - and neither could Sheheen while he still had the microphone in his hand - that it was just wrong. Full stop.
Just a gaffe? Why didn’t Sheheen immediately apologize?
No matter how you slice it, no matter how many excuses you muster, referring to a sitting governor who happens to be a woman as a whore shouldn’t be tolerated, by anyone, friend or political foe, whether it was done accidentally, or accidentally-on-purpose.
That’s especially true for a state like South Carolina, one in which women are beaten in domestic violence incidents at an alarming rate; our entire Republican Congressional delegation voted against renewing the Violence Against Women Act; too many of our male residents believe women should be treated like children or chattel as though we were still in the Biblical-era; and women still have a hard time reaching the pinnacle of state leadership, no matter how qualified they are.
The Democratic Party has done this before, excused a man in its midst at the expense of a woman.
In 1998, it was Monica Lewinsky’s name being dragged through the mud even though Bill Clinton was the married one and much more powerful and influential.
Even to this day, Democrats are more likely to excuse Clinton’s behavior than speak up for Lewinsky to help her have a chance at redemption the way Clinton did.
Make no mistake, had Sheheen’s gaffe included the n-word, the Democratic establishment would have first crashed down on his head then abandoned his dead political carcass.
(Local Democratic state House candidate Vida Miller called for Sheheen to apologize.)
And they would not have cared if it was accidental and would said if it wasn’t in his heart it could not have come out of his mouth..
Call a woman a whore, well ... there’s a reasonable explanation for that.