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Afternoon Read: Reactions to Virginia House Speaker's Controversial Remarks

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The backlash from Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell’s remarks to the female head of ProgressiveVA continued on Friday, with the Virginia Women’s Strike Force issuing a release condemning his rhetoric.

After a press conference on Thursday, Howell defended ALEC—the conservative lobbying group that he used to head—and had some stinging words for ProgressiveVA Executive Director Anna Scholl.

ProgressiveVA wrote a report about ALEC, which Howell said was filled with errors and misleading information.

Here was a snippet from their exchange, which was caught on tape.

Scholl asked Howell why he had said that her report was wrong and after a bit of talking he said to her, “I guess I’m not speaking in little enough words for you to understand.”

“I’m a smart girl," she said, telling the speaker that she went to the University of Virginia. “I think words with multiple syllables would be just fine for me,” Scholl replied.

Via Virginia Women’s Strike Force’ press release:

Republican Katherine Waddell, a former Virginia Delegate and President of Women's Strike Force is deeply disappointed by Howell's language towards Scholl, "The Speaker's actions are simply a continuation of the rude conduct toward women displayed on the floor of the House of Delegates during the 2012 Session. It is absolutely inexcusable that he would address Anna Scholl in such a patronizing manner but does indeed show how deeply rooted the good old boy network still is in the Virginia legislature."

Leslie Byrne, the first woman elected to Congress in Virginia, agrees that "Howell's disdain for women was evident throughout the General Assembly session. Whether it is forced ultrasounds, 'personhood' bills that endanger contraception or demeaning words to women who would dare question his lackluster answers, the result is the same, a lack of respect for women."

Howell apologized Friday for his conduct Thursday:

"Yesterday, I attended a news conference and joined with members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to highlight a new report, "Rich States, Poor States." With Virginia ranking third according to the ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index, the report details how Virginia is outperforming nearly every other state in the nation based on a wide variety of economic competitiveness issues, including taxes, labor costs and regulations," said Howell.
"After the news conference, I responded to a series of questions from Anna Scholl, Executive Director of ProgressVA, in a manner that was not consistent with my own standards of civility or reflective of the way I believe discussions over public policy disagreements should be conducted. I have since called Ms. Scholl and offered my sincere and heartfelt apology for my comments to her."

BlueVirginia.us explained why the exchange is a newsworthy story:

By the way, the reason THIS story matters is that Bill Howell is the Speaker of the House of Virginia - a powerful, high-ranking position of authority. This is in stark contrast to some random political operative who made a comment about Ann Romney. The former IS news. The latter is NOT news. Guess which one the idiot/corporate media mostly ran with? Duhhhhhhhhhhh.

Bearing Drift—a conservative blog in Virginia—had a different take and said this exchange has become just another “entry into the phony war on women.”

A shoddy report combined with sloppy reporting followed up by badgering questions and even more sloppy reporting. No wonder Howell was frustrated.
I think the real entity owed an apology here is ALEC — by the WaPo, ProgressVa and the assorted nitwits who insist that the Speaker is engaging in a Somme-like offensive on women.

* District election officials are counting the nearly 5,000 absentee and provisional ballots today to determine the results of the Democratic primary for at-large member of the D.C. Council between incumbent Vincent Orange and challenger Sekou Biddle, according to The Washington Times.

Orange currently has a 543 vote lead over Biddle.

* The Export-Import Bank of China’s first U.S office will open in Maryland under an agreement signed today with the state Department of Business and Economic Development.

According to MDbizMedia, the bank will be a source of capital for Chinese businesses investing in the United States and the office and will be based in the World Trade Center building in Maryland.

Via MDbizMedia:

“This is a unique opportunity for Maryland to further build on our already strong ties with China and serve as the gateway for Chinese companies looking to establish a U.S. presence,” said Gov. Martin O’Malley. “With China having one of the world’s fastest growing economies, it is critical that we move forward now to explore new opportunities for trade and investment, particularly in our shared strengths of science and technology.”

LooseLips has the latest in Jeffrey Thompson’s California connections. Read here to get the background of the story and the latest update.

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