A former leader of the Maricopa County Republican Party has equated a House representative who supported Arizona’s Medicaid expansion to the French women whose heads were shaved and paraded before the public following accusations of cavorting with German soldiers during World War II.
Tom Husband, a former chairman and executive director of the county GOP, referenced to the public humiliation suffered by the French women while talking about Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek. She was among a group of Republicans who supported Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposal last year to expand the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state Medicaid program.
“Upon the liberation of Paris by the Allied army, I remember watching newsreels of those traitorous women having their heads shaved in revenge for their perfidious conduct,” Husband said in an article distributed by the American Post-Gazette, an outlet for conservative ideas.
After noting Carter’s support for Medicaid expansion, Husband wrote, “The preference election was a chance for Carter’s fellow precinct committeemen to express themselves on her collaboration. And they did! But they didn’t shave her head.”
Husband was referring to a meeting of precinct committeemen from Legislative District 15 last week, when they held a mock election and took a vote on candidates for the district’s House primary.
Carter received only three votes in the mock election, while two other candidates – former legislator David Burnell Smith and Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale – got 76 and 74 votes, respectively.
Husband also called Carter a “turncoat” for voting with Democrats to pass Medicaid expansion, which is also a key provision of the federal Affordable Care Act. The proposal bitterly divided the GOP.
The party’s Tea Party wing views support for Medicaid expansion as akin to capitulating to Obamacare. Supporters, however, argue that Arizona voters mandated the state to pay for the health coverage of all residents who earn below 100 percent of the poverty level, and the federal government, through the Affordable Care Act, offered to pay a larger share of that cost if Arizona expanded eligibility.
Husband’s comments have spawned a backlash.
Rep. Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, an ally of Carter, said the comments were “hateful and mean-spirited.”
“The quote was just totally irresponsible on his part,” she said.
Lobbyist Chris Herstam described Husband’s comments as bigoted and sexist.
“To compare an excellent female Arizona legislator with French women who slept with Nazis is sexist trash,” he said.
Rep. Kelly Townsend, a conservative Republican from Mesa, said Carter doesn’t deserve the comparison.
“These remarks are indicative of the anger conservatives feel over what happened last year,” she said. “However, if we can refine those comments and focus on issues, we will do better to take that energy and direct it toward those not in our own party in an effort to win elections in 2014.”
Reached on the phone, Carter said such comments give the Republican Party and the state a “black eye.”
“They want to say the most extreme thing to get attention, and that’s a shame. The citizens of Arizona deserve better than this,” she said, lamenting that while she dwells on her work to improve the state, others want to focus on personal attacks.
Meanwhile, Jon Altmann, a Navy retiree and former candidate for the Phoenix City council, immediately came to Carter’s defense.
“First, don’t attack a daughter of an American veteran who has stood up for other veterans and proven her metal in that fight [by] claiming she is on the same level as those who gave themselves freely to the Nazis,” Altmann wrote in a blog post.
The state GOP refused to comment on the simmering controversy. Efforts to reach Husband also failed.
As The Guardian in the United Kingdom noted, the practice of shaving heads – an “ugly carnival” – goes back to Biblical times, when it was associated with shaming or mourning. In the book of Corinthians, for example, the Apostle Paul admonishes women’s head to be covered or “she might as well have her hair cut off.”
Writing for the Guardian, the English historian Antony Beevor said in Europe, the practice of punishing women by shaving their heads dates back to the dark ages, and in the Middle Ages, denuding a woman of what’s supposed to be her most seductive feature was commonly a punishment for adultery.
This mark of humiliation was revived in the 20th century – most infamously during World War II – but also during the Spanish civil war, he said.
In fact, Beevor offered a nuanced picture of the head shavings in France. He said many of the head-shavers were actually not members of the French resistance but also petty collaborators, who “sought to divert attention from their own lack of resistance credentials.”
He noted that many of the victims were prostitutes who had plied their trade with German soldiers and in some parts of occupied France, their conduct was considered apolitical and merely professional.
Others were teenagers who associated with the German soldiers out of boredom or bravado, Beevor said, adding, “Many victims were young mothers, whose husbands were in German prisoner-of-war camps. During the war, they often had no means of support, and their only hope of obtaining food for themselves and their children was to accept a liaison with a German soldier.”