Outsource This

Posted July 12, 2005 at 6:34pm

The chief of staff to Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) is the latest victim of E-mail-in-Mouth Syndrome. [IMGCAP(1)]

The aide, Scott Schloegel, made a joke about outsourcing jobs to India in an e-mail to all House Democratic schedulers, administrative assistants and legislative directors — in other words, just about every Democratic aide in the House. Let’s just say some of them weren’t laughing and found the off-color joke offensive, setting off an angry back-and-forth that went on for hours.

It all started when the legislative director to Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) sent

an e-mail to colleagues seeking extra gallery passes to next week’s scheduled joint session address by Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India. Schloegel, perhaps channeling CNN’s Lou Dobbs, responded with this e-mail:

“We have outsourced all inquiries about these tickets. If you call 800/555-GONE someone named ‘John’ or ‘Sammy’ or ‘Sue’ speaking broken English will be happy to take your request.”

Then came the outrage.

“You know this [is] 100 % offensive to the 55,000 South Asians that Mr. Crowley represents, and the 2.5 million strong South Asian community in the United States,” Christopher McCannell, chief of staff to Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), wrote in a “reply-all” e-mail. “Official House Resources are not to be used for inappropriate jokes.”

Another aide, the legislative director to Rep. Julia Carson (D-Ind.), wrote this “reply-all” missive: “Someone, an alien maybe, took over your computer and sent this trash out under your name? RIGHT?” Another aide waded into the e-mail exchange to try to cool tempers, saying, “Ok, OK. Lay off Scott. We all make mistakes.”

Schloegel then apologized to everyone on the e-mail list, writing, “I unintentionally hit reply to all and sent the email to everyone. It was an attempt at humor that apparently offended some people. For that, and for filling your inbox, I am very sorry. It was certainly not intended to offend anyone. Again, I apologize.”

But Democratic aide Deanne Samuels wasn’t having it. “You mean this would have been an INSIDE joke … ,” McCannell jumped back in and said, “I would just say that racist humor offends everyone, but call me crazy for thinking that.”

The “R” word was too much for Schloegel to bear. He wrote back to McCannell saying, “That is a load of crap! You called me a racist to the entire list of people. That was certainly intentional and you have not heard the last of this from me!”

McCannell retreated quickly and within minutes replied from his BlackBerry, “Scott I am sorry. I didn’t mean it. I apologize.”

And thus ended the near-international incident over the joke on outsourcing tickets to the Indian prime minister’s address to a joint session of Congress.

Schloegel apologized again in an e-mail to HOH and her readers, saying, “The email was intended to poke fun at the absurd amount of outsourcing that has gone on in recent years. There was no reference to any one culture or group of people. Unfortunately, a few of my colleagues were offended by the email (that was not intended to come to them in the first place) and they drew conclusions about what they thought I meant. It was a poor choice of words and I regret that some took offense to it.”

Whisker Watch. Only two weeks to go until Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) can shave his beard. Though a weighty emotional symbol of the passing of his mother, Marcia Lieberman, Lieberman’s wild whiskers have prompted some ribbing from colleagues and Senate staffers.

One Senate aide calls it the “Joe-tee.” An elevator operator in the Senate, surprised by Lieberman’s new look, quipped, “You look like Crocodile Dundee.” Oy. Even the Senator’s wife, Hadassah, has had a little trouble getting used to the beard, the Senator confided to HOH. She is keenly aware, he said, that July 27 marks the end of schloshim, the 30-day mourning period following the burial of his mother. Only then can the Orthodox Jewish Senator shave (or cut his hair, listen to music or go to parties again, for that matter).

No one — save for his wife — is more ready to whip out the razor than Lieberman. “I’m looking forward to shaving,” the Senator sighed.

Marcia Lieberman, who became a favorite fixture with reporters and supporters during her son’s 2000 vice presidential campaign, died June 26 at age 90. HOH extends deepest sympathies to the Senator and his family.

More Condolences. HOH also extends its deepest sympathies to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and his family on the passing of the Senator’s mother, Iona Watson Lott, the fiery school teacher we’ve heard so much about over the years. Sen. Lott is an only child. His father, Chester P. Lott, a shipyard pipefitter, died in 1969.

Mrs. Lott died Saturday in her hometown of Pascagoula, Miss. She was 91. Her funeral will be held Thursday in Pascagoula. In lieu of flowers, the family is suggesting memorials may be made to First Baptist Church in Pascagoula or to the University of Mississippi Foundation for the Trent Lott Leadership Institute.

Sherwoood Update. Rep. Don Sherwood (R-Pa.) has received a 20-day extension to respond to a $5.5 million lawsuit filed by the Rockville, Md., woman who claims the Congressman beat her during an alleged five-year affair.

The deadline for responding was the end of last week. But, lucky for Sherwood, both parties agreed to extend it by another 20 days — putting it smack dab in the middle of the August recess, when Washington will become a ghost town. Sherwood’s lawyer, Bobby Burchfield, told the Citizens Voice newspaper in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., that the extension is “very standard” in such cases, adding, “Nothing unusual here at all.”

Police showed up at Sherwood’s apartment on Sept. 15 of last year, responding to Cynthia Ore’s 911 call claiming that the Congressman choked her, but they did not charge anyone in the incident. When they arrived, according to the police report, Ore changed her story and said she and the Congressman were just sipping tea. Sherwood said he was just giving Ore a back rub.

The 64-year-old Congressman, who is married, has denied Ore’s allegations of abuse and is being supported by Republicans back home. But Democrats have found at least two candidates who are considering bids against Sherwood in his very safe district.

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.