Letter to the editor: Enough is enough, says Audet supporter

When a loved one runs for office it can be difficult to read the local paper. There are letters and columns that may not accurately reflect the person you know and what they stand for. It comes with the territory, though, and I can let most things go.
Except for Thursday’s “Between the Lines” column by Greg Dennis.
Specifically, I am deeply troubled by this passage, an excerpt from an imaginary conversation Dennis (GD) had with Donald Trump (DT):
“GD: What are your thoughts about Marie Audet, the other independent in that race?
DT: Well, I can’t say. I haven’t seen a picture of her. When it comes to women candidates I go by looks. And of course by feel.”
I have since learned that the last line — “and of course by feel” — was not intended for publication on the part of the newspaper. The editor had removed that line for print publication, but because of a workflow error, that line made it into the online edition for a time on Thursday.
It did not escape my notice.
Dennis has crossed the line of decency of here. What he has written is filth. In this age of #MeToo, as our collective understanding of the sexual predation women encounter increases, he thought it would be — what? amusing? clever? — to imagine a scenario in which Donald Trump would want to see Marie and “feel” her in order to assess her candidacy, her values, and her ability to lead.
And since this is a scenario entirely of Dennis’ own invention, it is really he who is debasing her candidacy, who is using sexual violence against women as a way of scoring very cheap political points.
Dennis and the editors of this newspaper tell me that what he wrote is satire. To me, they are using satire as a shield against accountability for his commentary. How often do we hear Donald Trump and his ilk claim that his statements are “just jokes” or “locker room talk”? Attributing such things to irony, satire, or humor only normalizes and perpetuates misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, and other systems of oppression.
Disagreement on substantive issues is healthy for democracy. Diversity of perspectives leads to better decisions and outcomes. I think many of the editorials, letters, and columns in this paper are published in that spirit. But this kind of degrading, sexist talk is unwelcome. It adds nothing to our discourse.
The women leaders of our state, our country, and our world deserve much, much better than this.
Sarah M. Audet
Sarah M. Audet is Marie Audet’s daughter-in-law and serves as the Campaign Coordinator for Audet & Ralston for Vermont Senate
Editor’s note: We agree that Greg Dennis’ comment was inappropriate, which was why it was cut in editing. An earlier copy of his column mistakenly was put online, but was taken down as soon as we learned about it and replaced with the edited and revised version within a very short time. Fewer than two dozen readers had clicked onto the column before we replaced it. Take out that offensive part and there is no “sexist talk.” That does not mean this newspaper agrees with the column writer’s opinion or sense of appropriateness. In this case, we do not. But censoring the work of columnists creates a sameness of opinion in the paper that we strive to avoid. Taken in context of the other 100-plus letters and opinions that we have printed in the past month or so and it’s but one voice in a sea of many.
— Angelo Lynn, editor

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