Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., the GOP co-chair of the president’s deficit commission, apologized today for sending an email to a female activist for seniors in which he described Social Security as “a milk cow with 310 million t*ts.”
“Over the last 40 years, I have had my size 15 feet in my mouth a time or two,” Simpson wrote in a letter to the activist, Ashley Carson, on the official stationery of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. (You can read his letter HERE.) “To quote my old friend and colleague, Senator Lloyd Bentsen, when I make a mistake, ‘It’s a doozy!’”
The White House said it didn’t play a role in Mr. Simpson’s mea culpa. “He was a senator and been around politics long enough to come to the realization on his own,” one senior White House official told ABC News.
Carson, the executive director of the National Older Woman’s League (OWL), told ABC News, “I appreciate his apology and that it was such a rapid response, but what he said calls for greater action.” Carson said she doesn’t think Simpson “has the judgment to make decisions that impact so many Americans, and in particular I represent older Americans and older female Americans.”
She said that a group of feminist leaders – including her and OWL president Donna Wagner; Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation; Kim Gandy, the former president of the National Organization for Women, Terry O’Neill, the current president of NOW; Martha Burk, the former chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations; Susan Scanlan, the current chair of the NCWO – were writing a letter to President Obama demanding Simpson’s ouster.
On April 27, Carson, wrote a piece entitled “Enough with the Pink Panthers Bit” in the Huffington Post. Carson wrote that Simpson “insists that the solution to fixing America's deficit is to target Social Security. Over and over again, he states that the Gray Panthers and the Pink Panthers are the only people who are making noise about not cutting Social Security benefits. Well, I have some news for Mr. Simpson – there is no group called the Pink Panthers working to protect Social Security. Is this some disgusting attempt at ageism and sexism in one cutesy alliterative quip? Not surprising given his record of sexism (i.e., Justice Thomas' confirmation hearings) and his constant bashing of seniors (ever hear the term ‘greedy geezers’? We can thank Simpson for that).”
Carson wrote that Simpson paints a picture “that everyone receiving Social Security benefits is living the high life – driving luxury cars, dining out and living in gated communities. If this is true, can someone please tell me where it is that I can retire in the United States where I can buy my Lexus, make house payments and never have to cook at home again on my $11,000?” She asserted that “Social Security doesn't contribute to the problem, and in fact runs an enormous surplus.” The deficit commission should focus on defense spending and the Bush era tax cuts, she wrote.
Simpson emailed Carson on Monday of this week, writing that he had spent “many years in public life” working to stabilize Social Security “while people like you babble into the vapors about ‘disgusting attempts at ageism and sexism’ and all the rest of that crap.”
The former Senate Minority Whip referred Carson to a PDF of a May 12, 2010 presentation by Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration, to the debt commission, which shows that after 2037, only 76% of benefits will be available. (You can see the PDF HERE.)
“If we can’t get a handle on this system and make it sustainable and assure long term solvency, and make some changes that are ‘minor’ at the present time and will become ‘major’ as each year passes,” Simpson wrote, “then take a look at the chart on Page 6 which I hope you are able to discern if you are any good at reading graphs – or anything that might challenge your biases and prejudices… If you have some better suggestions about how to stabilize Social Security instead of just babbling into the vapors, let me know.”
He concluded: “And yes, I’ve made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know ‘em too. It’s the same with any system in America. We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million t*ts! Call when you get honest work!”
Carson tells ABC News that she was “stunned” by the email, which she said “says a lot of things that are inappropriate for someone in his position.”
The comment about the “310 million t*ts” is the one that “draws the most attention of the feminist movement,” she said, but other parts of the letter she found offensive as well, including the suggestion that “someone who runs a national non profit might not be able to read a graph.”
“He really lacks the judgment to be the co-chair of a presidentially appointed commission,” she said. OWL wrote a letter (read it HERE) asking the president to fire Simpson.
In addition, OWL worked with the National Council of Women’s Organizations to form a petition calling for Simpson’s ouster, “(g)iven Senator Simpson’s clear disrespect for Social Security, the American people, and his degrading, sexist, ageist and profane language.”
“Simpson suggests that anyone supporting people who most need help and who deserve the benefits they paid for must be dishonest or stupid. (Greedy Geezers, Pink Panthers, People not caring a whit about their grandchildren, the lesser people),” the petition stated. “Such open contempt goes beyond the pale and cannot be tolerated from someone in such a position of authority….Mr. President, it is time for you to stand up for the millions of American workers who have paid into Social Security on the promise of a secure retirement, and put them ahead of political sportsmanship. Mr. Simpson must be removed from this commission, either by his own will, or by yours. Show American workers you mean what you say about protecting Social Security. This is your chance.”
In addition, NOW announced what is calling its "T*ts for an Ass" campaign, asking its 500,000 members and supporters “to use our website or Twitter account to help us buy baby bottle nipples, which we'll hand deliver to the White House with a letter urging President Obama to fire Alan Simpson.”
Simpson wrote to Carson today: “I apologize for what I wrote. I can see that my remarks have caused you anguish, and that was not my intention. I certainly did not intend to diminish your hard work for the Older Women’s League. I know you care deeply about strengthening Social Security, and so do I, just as deeply. I remember your testimony at our public hearing in June about the importance of retirement security for women.”
He invited her to meet with him in person so he “could learn further of your sincere concerns.”
Carson said what Simpson wrote “goes far beyond foot in mouth type of statement. Any sort of basic research on Sen. Simpson shows this is a pattern with him, saying things that are pretty inappropriate.”
– Jake Tapper