Official Calls Reporter A "Bitch," Resigns, Then Does It Again

Ron Buchanan, Nashville’s top election official, resigned on Monday after calling a reporter from WSMV-TV a “bitch”—while tape was rolling.

Buchanan was answering questions about his expenses, which included meals at upscale local restaurants and pricey office furnishings. He was doing a fine enough job of defending his expenses as legitimate—but something got under his skin when the reporter asked him this question:

“Could you have gone to another restaurant that was perhaps not as expensive?”

Here the full exchange, as transcribed by WSMV:

“Could you have gone to another restaurant that was perhaps not as expensive?”
“That’s it,” Buchanan said, walking away from the camera.
“Can you explain the picture frame that was $614?” Autler asked.
“That’s it,” Buchanan said.
“That’s it?” Autler said.
“That’s exactly the kind of bitch I thought you would be,” Buchanan said.
“Wow, do you want to say that again Mr. Buchanan?” Autler asked.
“No,” Buchanan said.

Ron Buchanan

Under normal circumstances, the story would have ended there; after calling the reporter a pejorative term, he resigned his post.

But Mr. Buchanan wasn’t done. In his resignation letter, he wrote:

“I am submitting my resignation because I became frustrated with a reporter who made an inappropriate comment directed at me personally following an interview. Her comment had nothing to do with expenditures by the Election Commission, which was the subject matter of the interview. In frustration, I made a personal comment back to her which accurately expressed my feelings about her at the time, and still accurately expresses my feeling.
There are some that may feel my description of her conduct was inappropriate. That is understandable, but it is certainly not uncommon. I would estimate 90% of adult men would have used the same term to describe the reporter’s conduct if they had been present, or a similar word would have been used by women to describe the conduct if it had been a male reporter.”

First, let’s be clear: the reporter was asking questions that were well within the norm of journalistic standards, and the vast majority of people who are asked such questions answer them without resorting to personal invective.

He’s right about one thing: In anger, many of us use language we later regret. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. I suspect most viewers who viewed this exchange would have been willing forgive his sexist and abusive words—if they were followed by a sincere apology.

Instead, Buchanan took that one word and turned the story into a much larger argument about the appropriateness of sexist language. Instead of apologizing and moving on, he dug in and argued that the vast majority of men, faced with a similar situation, would have done the same thing—which is an obviously ridiculous assertion.

All Buchanan accomplished with his defiant resignation letter was to make clear that his initial use of the term “bitch” was no misstep, but rather a sincere belief that he’s entitled to direct that term toward any woman he deems deserving of it. His lack of judgment on that count makes me wonder if there wasn’t something to his lack of judgment with his expenditures, as well.

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