James’ re­mark gets crit­i­cism

Video shows Se­nate hope­ful jok­ing about ‘grab­bing boobs’

The Detroit News - - Metro - BY LEONARD N. FLEM­ING The De­troit News

A re­mark by Repub­li­can U.S. Se­nate can­di­date John James at a VFW rally last week in which he re­ferred to “grab­bing boobs” as an in­fant has drawn fire for be­ing in­sen­si­tive to women and sex­ual as­sault sur­vivors.

Oth­ers say it was clearly a joke and crit­ics are over­re­act­ing.

In an Oct. 2 video recorded at an ap­pear­ance in St. Clair Shores, James, 37, is seen ad­dress­ing a crowd of mostly vet­er­ans, re­fer­ring to the #MeToo move­ment and the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing then-Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh.

“I don’t want to go to Washington. Who would right now?” James said to laugh­ter. “You kid­ding me? You see what I was do­ing 36 years ago. Well, I was one so ... I was breast­feed­ing, but other than that ... so I guess I was grab­bing boobs back then.”

James, a for­mer Army Apache he­li­copter pilot from Farm­ing­ton Hills who has been en­dorsed by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, faces Demo­crat U.S. Sen. Deb­bie Stabenow of Lans­ing in his first bid for pub­lic of­fice. The two have sched­uled de­bates Sun­day in Grand Rapids and Mon­day in De­troit.

The video was posted on Twit­ter on Thurs­day by Amer­i­can Bridge, a left-lean­ing op­po­si­tion group spe­cial­iz­ing in “hold­ing Repub­li­cans ac­count­able.” James’ cam­paign posted the video live on Face­book dur­ing the event. Amer­i­can Bridge is the same group that put Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Bill Schuette on the hot seat with a video of an ex­change with a woman in­ter­view­ing him in Schuette ex­pressed re­gret poor at­tempt at hu­mor.

Tori Sachs, cam­paign man­ager for James, said her can­di­date would not be com­ment­ing but that the post­ing of the video is a clear at­tempt to stop James’ mo­men­tum in the race.

“As the mother of three tod­dlers, I think we need more lead­ers like John James who draw at­ten­tion to im­por­tant is­sues like breast­feed­ing. I think John James and Michelle Obama both agree that this is an im­por­tant is­sue,” Sachs said.

Mi­randa Mar­gowsky, a spokes­woman for Stabenow, said the se­na­tor had no com­ment.

Don Tan­ner, a part­ner in the Tan­ner Fried­man pub­lic re­la­tions firm, said a “suc­cess­ful politi­cian re­ally needs to know his base” and how to ap­peal to it. Some­times the re­sult is a com­ment that’s “off-color” or in­ap­pro­pri­ate, 1989. at a he said.

“When it comes right down to it, James’ base is re­ally the same as Don­ald Trump’s base,” Tan­ner said. “As you saw in the video, he got laughs for some off-color re­marks just like Trump gets at his ral­lies.”

Tan­ner said he be­lieves James “got a lit­tle bit caught up in the mo­ment”: “I’m not say­ing what he did was right or wrong. I per­son­ally don’t agree with what he said. But Don­ald Trump has shown that that can work very, very well.”

Jen Eyer, a se­nior vice pres­i­dent of Van­guard Pub­lic Af­fairs and a for­mer com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for Demo­crat Gretchen Whit­mer’s gu­ber­na­to­rial cam­paign, said she was dis­ap­pointed by the re­mark and said it shows how he feels about women.

“I think that a can­di­date’s re­marks are al­ways a win­dow into their thoughts . ... He clearly has thoughts about women that are in­dica­tive of a lack of re­spect,” she said.

“You have him mak­ing a joke that re­ally con­flates what is a very pure and nat­u­ral mo­ment be­tween a mother and a baby with some­thing sex­ual. That, to me, is re­volt­ing.”

Ash­ley Asz­ta­los, 30, who owns a salon in Livo­nia, said she was not of­fended by the James’ com­ments and “I laughed pretty heav­ily.”

“I don’t look at things from a vic­tim men­tal­ity point of view, so I guess I just don’t re­ally re­late to peo­ple who have to take ev­ery sin­gle thing that some­body says as like sex­ual as­sault,” she said.


John James’ re­marks about breast­feed­ing have drawn crit­i­cism.

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