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A Little Respect

More than five female Metro land writers have been asked out by now-Albany County Legislator Brian Scavo while they were interviewing the man for the paper in an official capacity. They were just trying to do their jobs.

During my six-year association with Metroland, from intern to staff writer to freelancer and now columnist, I have witnessed Scavo verbally harass, touch, grope and even kiss our writers. I’ve also heard the stories of how he berated or harassed them after they described the incidences publicly.

It’s not that these women need defending from Scavo—Metroland writers are fairly tough, intelligent and resilient people, if I do say so myself—but they should not have to put up with this sort of behavior from anyone, especially an elected official.

It strikes me as odd that it has taken so long for major controversy to flare up over Scavo’s behavior and even now, only because of an awkward, perhaps racist statement he made on the Times Union blog. “Back of the bus sister, so sayest king MC coy, let us bow before master MC coy,” he said, referring to County Legislator Wanda Willingham. Willingham has demanded an apology. Others have demanded his resignation and are considering reprimanding him. Scavo has insisted it is satire.

If you are at all familiar with Scavo, you know he makes a habit of saying fairly outlandish things online—mostly spelled incorrectly or in all caps—and in person. He has let obscenities fly at a number of other elected officials.

But it strikes me that his behavior towards women should have caused a much louder outcry by now.

A few columns ago, when I described how Scavo felt up one of our freelancers on election night, the reaction I got from politicos and interested readers wasn’t what I expected.

“Oh, yeah, he is a weirdo,” or “That’s Brian,” or “Oh, he hit on so-and-so like that, too,” were the most common reactions.

This simply isn’t acceptable.

Mr. Scavo has the right to post whatever craziness he wants on the Web. If the Albany County Legislature decides to punish him for it, then so be it, but doesn’t anyone out there care about how he treats women?

It is not his right to put his hands on women when they don’t want him to. They should not be under constant fear that he will ask them out and then get angry when they reject him.

Any number of politicians will tell you off the record that Scavo’s behavior toward women has made them uncomfortable, but they don’t speak out against it because they assume he is just an odd duck who will eventually do himself in.

But in the meantime, there is a county legislator who has made a habit of harassing the women I know.

Mr. Scavo has said in the past that he “has a restraining order” against Metroland, or that we have “slandered” him, and yet he keeps up the behavior that initiated the stories he calls “slander.”

Should I have to explain to new writers that Scavo may ask them on a date? Should I advise them on how best to handle that eventuality? Should our writers have to turn Scavo’s dinner invitations down by telling him they are married, only to have him invite their husbands along for dinner too?

If this behavior were truly just some big misunderstanding (although I don’t see how unwanted groping and advances could possibly be considered such), then why wouldn’t Scavo stop his bad behavior? It’s become a very popular cliché, but Einstein had it right: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

And yet, Scavo continues to play the victim. When the Times Union Local Politics blog posted a survey asking readers whether Scavo should resign for his comments, Scavo took to Facebook and posted this: “the Times union newspaper blog has published a poll about me if you like what i stand for vote NO go to { timesunion.com} local politics blog,,,,should brian scavo resign ,,,,,,,,,,,VOTE NO,,,,,,,,,,,thank you.”

Mr. Scavo, if you want the respect of your peers, of the community, start acting in a respectable manner. Take responsibility for your actions. You’ve apologized for the remarks you made that upset County Legislator Wanda Willingham. It is up to her and your colleagues in the legislature to decide whether that atones for them sufficiently. I have the feeling it doesn’t, but in the meantime, how about apologizing to the women you’ve made feel so very uncomfortable?

Maybe at the “Party for the Albany County Legislature” on Nov. 29 at Burger Centric, which you are touting so fervently on your blog, you could make a very public apology for the way you have treated women in the past. I would be satisfied if you apologized to the most recent target of your unwanted advances. The freelancer you groped on election night certainly deserves an apology.

—David King


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