On Feb. 22 during debate on the jobs bill, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid said that cutting joblessness would help reduce domestic violence.
“I met with some people while I was home dealing with domestic abuse,” he said. “It has gotten out of hand. Why? Men don’t have jobs. Women don’t have jobs, either, but women aren’t abusive, most of the time. Men, when they’re out of work, tend to become abusive. Domestic crisis shelters in Nevada are jammed. That’s the way it is all over the country.”
The statement was unremarkable to officials of shelter programs, but the National Republican Senatorial Committee was on the job and quickly sent out a statement trying to spin the remark into a gaffe.
“However, instead of invoking caustic partisan rhetoric and bizarre analogies, Harry Reid should focus on the actual legislation moving forward and start doing what is best for Nevadans,” wrote NRSC spokesperson Brian Walsh.
Taking their cue, conservatives started unloading on Reid.
One of the stranger interpretations of Reid’s comments came on a right wing website that said that if New York Gov. David Paterson is defeated for reelection this year—he has since chosen not to run—“he’s going to become an abusive husband.”
Maybe it’s something about New York. New York Daily News columnist Andrea Tantaros ran a column under a headline that said Reid was “making light of domestic abuse.” It’s not clear whether that was the view of Tantaros or her headline writer—the column itself did not contain the claim.
At a site called Men’s News Daily, a Gordon Finley—who identified himself as a developmental psychologist—psychoanalyzed the senator, using a Newsweek article about Reid’s childhood in Searchlight.
Actor and former senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee, using Twitter, that new tool for in-depth debate, tweeted, “Jobless men = domestic abuse. Is he saying we should be worried about Mrs. Reid after the November elections?” That prompted Reid’s office to issue a statement calling Thompson’s tweet “despicable.” It read further, “While Fred Thompson may think he was being funny, it is unfortunate and disappointing that so many on the right would make light of domestic abuse. As someone who witnessed it firsthand as a child, Sen. Reid does not find the issue funny.”
Fox News found a men’s rights group, the National Organization for Men, which challenged the notion that men are more likely to batter their spouses or partners than women.
“Instead of looking to try and find men jobs, he’s bashing men completely unfairly,” said Marty Nemko, the group’s president.
Far from backing off on his assertion, Reid repeated it, saying that officials of Las Vegas shelters told him that joblessness has generated “additional work for them they would rather not have.”
“There is no question that people being out of work causes more people to be involved in domestic violence. I mean, I didn’t make that up. I was told that by two people who run domestic crisis shelters.”
The Washington Post said the criticism was mostly from conservatives and that “battered-women’s advocates who have watched their caseloads grow as the recession took hold pointed to thick federally funded studies substantiating a link between financial strain and domestic abuse.”