We cannot tolerate the behavior of Scott Levanway, the longtime lobbyist who made an intolerably vulgar suggestion to one of our supervisors.
That anyone would believe the language Levanway used is tolerable shows that Mississippi’s leaders have their work cut out for them. It is up to them to make sure everyone who works at the Capitol knows where the boundaries are. They need to say it over and over again that women will be treated with respect and won’t be subjected to vulgar disdain. And they need to lead by example, showing respect to the women the voters send to the Capitol.
And, the people who work there must agree to handle themselves with dignity. We have heard others shrug off such abusive language as locker-room talk. Our officials must make it clear that the Capitol is no locker room.
Clearly, Levanway didn’t know his lewd question would create such an uproar. Perhaps he believed Supervisor Beverly Martin would be cowed by his blatant sexism. We are happy to report he underestimated Martin.
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She did what any woman in that situation should do. She spoke up. She was not silenced. She was not intimidated.
After a storm of protest raged for hours on social media, Levanway apologized. He should have apologized immediately to Martin’s face. Instead, he repeated his crude remark in the presence of Kent Jones, another Harrison County supervisor.
“Beverly and I are old friends and we had not seen each other in some time,” Levanway said in apology sent to the media via email. “I made an ill-advised and totally unacceptable comment that was intended as a joke. My judgment was poor and I sincerely apologize for my offensive behavior.”
A joke? We aren’t laughing. We wonder how the #MeToo movement managed to pass him by.
Levanway is registered as a lobbyist for the city of Gulfport and the Gulfport-Biloxi Airport Authority. Both those government bodies should reconsider whether they need his services. We suspect there are many capable lobbyists who don’t come with Levanway’s baggage.
And if they decide to stick with Levanway, they should consider the message this sends to the state’s women: A fellow can say just about anything to a woman and get away with it.
This is the message they should send: Such behavior will not be tolerated. Period.
Mississippi’s women should be assured that they will be respected.
The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.