The National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) is asking the Bush administration to clarify a statement made earlier this week by White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer in which he said that sex discrimination does not count as much as race discrimination. During a Dec. 10 White House briefing, Fleischer was questioned about a decision made by John Snow, Bush’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, to resign from Augusta National Golf Club – which refuses to admit women members.
Fleischer was asked by a reporter: “Yesterday you talked about that (sex discrimination) was not a disqualifying matter in terms of the Augusta Golf Club. Would it make a difference if Augusta Country Club disqualified or didn’t allow people on racial or ethnic basis? Would that be different for a Cabinet Secretary?” Fleischer’s reply was: “Do you have something specific in mind here? No, I think that would be a very different category for the president.”
“President Bush has publicly denounced Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) for what have been perceived as racist comments. However, when it comes to sexism, Ari Fleischer has made it clear that the president has different standards,” said Martha Burk, NCWO president. “Is it the Bush administration’s belief that sex discrimination is okay but race discrimination is not?”
“Are we seeing a pattern of the White House minimizing efforts to fight sex discrimination?” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “The Bush administration is currently pursuing a course that is threatening to Title IX and women’s athletic opportunities. The Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, which was appointed by Bush, could change federal regulations currently requiring proportionality in school athletics for boys and girls to permanent inequality. The commission is considering changes that would allow significantly fewer athletic opportunities for women and girls.”
Augusta National is the site of the Masters, an event sanctioned by the PGA Tour, though the PGA does not own or run the Masters. The NCWO, under the leadership of chair Martha Burk, argues that by sanctioning an event held at a club that practices such blatant discrimination, the PGA violates its own anti-discrimination policies.
The latest Harris poll shows that 60 percent of all women surveyed believe that Augusta National is wrong not to admit women while approximately 60 percent of men believe that the exclusionary policy should stand. This poll was conducted online from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2.