While some mistakes children make may be a direct response to something their parents did, most of the time, once they are adults, it has nothing to do with us. Right?
I’ve been wondering this question both as a mother and as a California resident who has been watching very closely the heated gubernatorial race that has entered its home stretch. Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay and one candidate in the race, has been plagued with some extra baggage during this campaign, the heaviest coming from her own two sons, Will and Griff Harsh.
A Princeton classmate accused Griff of rape back in 2006. The accuser woke up after a night of drinking with bruises on her body, a black eye and no memory of the night before. Griff claimed the sex was consensual and the bruising and black eye was the result of a fall. A Princeton disciplinary panel decided there was not enough evidence and did not press charges.
Though there is no way to know for sure, it’s hard not to wonder if the incident would have had a different outcome had Meg Whitman not donated 30 million dollars to Princeton in 2002. Would the panels have found him guilty? Would the accusers have pursued the incident further?
Griff went on to be arrested and charged with felony battery later that same year, after pushing a woman and breaking her ankle outside a Palo Alto bar. Meg Whitman posted the $25,000 bail; a year later those charges were also dropped.
A series of rumors have also circulated around the web of incidents where both sons used the N-word (supposedly resulting in suspensions in each case), as well as a rumor that Will once dated a Jewish girl that he could not bring home to meet his family because she was Jewish and too fat. The racist claims are unsubstantiated; most people are simply not willing to go on the record about them. But they are enough to raise my eyebrows.
The incidents don’t end with assault and racial slurs. Gawker reports that recently, Will threw a tantrum of epic proportions on the Princeton rugby field. When Will arrived for practice, he found the Princeton's graduate student softball league was already playing a game. According to Gawker, what happened next was straight out of a 80s teen movie. When they wouldn’t leave the field after Will told them to, he began throwing their stuff over the fence.
But should the actions of Meg Whitman’s adult sons have any impact on her ability to govern California?
This is not an easy question. In Oklahoma, Rep. Mary Fallin claims her experience as a mother makes her a better candidate than her opponent for Governor Jari Askins, a single woman who chose not to have children. If Mary Fallin can claim her parenting skills make her a better politician, than should we here in California be judging Meg Whitman on hers?
I say not necessarily. I’ve known plenty of good mothers out there who ended up with rotten adult children, who became rotten on their own accord. In the world of politics, take the Kennedys for example. Some of the best leaders in our history had children who turned out far from perfect. Did Patrick Kennedy’s hijinks ever affect Ted Kennedy’s ability as Senator of Massachusetts? Then again, no one ever questioned his parenting abilities. Maybe if he had been a woman, they would have.
As of now, many of these stories are just that, rumors. And since election day is upon us, it doesn't look any of the rumors will be substantiated any time soon. I can't say they wouldn't impact me one way or the other, because I base my voting decisions on a person's politics, not personality. I would consider rumors about a candidate if those rumors were regarding the candidate's ability to the job. The rumors are not enough to sway a decision I've already made.
As a politically minded woman who considers herself a feminist, I have to say that if women do not want motherhood to work against them in the workplace, then we have to stand together and ignore the antics of Meg Whitman’s adult children. Look at her political experience, her history at eBay (which includes a shoving incident of Whitman's own) and the other factors that have a direct bearing on her qualifications as governor. We cannot have it both ways.
That being said, I have to confess something. As diplomatic as I try to be with this subject, if I see a kid using the N-word, I am going to look to the mom to find out where he learned it. The same goes if that child is a spoiled rotten little brat. Call me judgmental, but my kids will not be going to that house for playdates anytime soon.
Meghan Harvey is a married mother of two residing in the East Bay area. She can be found blogging at Meg's Idle Chatter and on Twitter as @meghan1018
More from entertainment