As people started to respond with understandable anger and outrage, a group of
women leaders from around the state cosigned a letter directed to Clear Channel demanding that Belling apologize for his crude remarks. Here is the letter:
We the undersigned community and business leaders request that Mark Belling issue an on air apology for his sexist remarks towards County Board Chair Dimitrijevic and the entire Milwaukee community. We also ask that the debate on AB85 focus on the merits without further personal attacks.The letter, emails and phone calls had it's desired effect - to a certain extent anyway.
We need fair and equal government in Milwaukee County. Currently women are severely underrepresented at both City and County government, with only one woman serving on the City Council and four women out of eighteen supervisors on the County Board. In the role of Milwaukee County Board Chair, there have been only 2 women to serve in this position. The current County Board Chairwoman, Marina Dimitrijevic, has come under escalating personal attacks for speaking out against a bill she believes will hurt Milwaukee County.
Unfortunately, those who disagree with her have not argued against her on merit. Instead, they have taken to attacking her as a woman. One such attack is by talk show host Mark Belling who referred to her as “bitch” on his show.
The comment by Mark Belling was the last straw. The rhetoric is poisonous; enough is enough. When anyone attacks a female leader with comments related to her gender and not on the merits of the discussion, it is vital for our entire community that this behavior is addressed and changed.
While disagreement and discussion on policy is healthy, resorting to name calling of female leaders as a way to discount their credibility is unacceptable and poisonous to the political discourse. One of the factors that may keep women from running for and seeking leadership positions is the attacks they receive not because of disagreement but because they are women. We need to encourage healthy debate and discourage attacks on the gender of our leaders.
Christine Bremer Muggli
Alderwoman Milele Coggs
Supervisor Sharon Corrigan
Alder Sue Ellingson
School Board Director Meagan Holman
Teresa Mambu Rasch
Supervisor Peggy Romo West
On the bright side, Belling did apologize and said the first truthful thing in his sorry life:
"Should I apologize?" Belling asked during a 20-minute segment. "Well, of course, I should not have said or implied that she is a bitch. That's language that's going to be inflammatory. And, in retrospect, I would not have added to my joke by using those words."Admittedly, that's not much of an apology, but one shouldn't expect too much from a boor like Belling in the first place.
Belling jokingly said that "only an idiot" would have said what he did on air. “As I’ve admitted many a time,” Belling then added, “I’m an idiot.”
He followed that up with a two-paragraph email to Dimitrijevic in which he said his use of the term "bitches" was a "mistake."
"I do a live program and wish I hadn’t said it because I shouldn’t have said it," Belling wrote. He asked for her to apologize for deceiving him and public on the collective bargaining issue.
His apology came in response to criticism from female political leaders and representatives for working women for his comment. Belling emphasized that he had not heard directly from any of these individuals.
"Even for mean-spirited people, there is a line, and he's crossed it," said Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work Consortium.
Bill Zaferos, spokesman for Dimitrijevic, said the freshman County Board leader was offended by Belling's comment. "It was a derogatory, sexist term," Zaferos said.
Sadly, that's not the end of things.
Milwaukee County Chris Abele, whose staff and supporters have waged their own war of misogyny against Dimitrijevic, have yet to apologize for their attacks. Don't hold your breath for it to happen though. Abele has already said that being respectful to Dimitrijevic is "a distraction."
The other thing that I find bothersome is that the local paper had to follow up with a second article in which they reported that - gasp - Dimitrijevic had a hand in defending herself against the vitriolic misogyny that Belling was spewing out.
I'm at a loss as to trying to understand how that is newsworthy. Was she, as a woman, supposed to just shut up and take the verbal abuse? Or is it that shocking that a strong willed woman would want to defend herself?
Or is it that they have an agenda that they are trying to push?
My guess is the latter.
And as I have pointed out several times before, it's very telling that Team GMC cannot argue their case on its merits - mainly because there are none - and thus have to resort to such sexist and base behaviors.
The biggest thing that needs reform around here is Abele's attitude towards other people, especially women.