Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-Va.) hometown newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is raising concerns about the former vice presidential candidate’s “sexist” line of questioning of billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary.
The Times-Dispatch called out Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, in a Sunday editorial, accusing the Virginia Democrat of sexism when he questioned DeVos during her hearing with the panel on Jan. 17.
While the newspaper praised Kaine for posing challenging questions for DeVos, the editors took issue with one question in particular:
You and your husband spoke at a conference a number of years ago, and your husband said — this was not attributed to you, but you were together at the conference, if what I read is correct — “The church has been displaced by the public school as the center for activity, the center of what goes on in the community.” Thomas Jefferson didn’t view public education as contrary to or competitive with church or religion. Do you?
“How curious,” the editors wrote of the question.
The Times-Dispatch went on to remind readers that Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton, who has been both a judge and the head of the Virginia Department of Education, has been in the public eye for many decades, given the fact that her father was Virginia Gov. Linwood Holton (R).
“In all that time, we don’t recall a single instance in which Holton was asked to answer for her husband’s views (or vice versa). Nor should she have been,” the editorial read.
“After all,” it continued, “a woman does not stop being an independent person when she gets married. She still does her own thinking, and need not subordinate her opinions to those of her husband. In fact, it seems rather sexist to imply otherwise.”
The Washington Post reported Monday that Democrats have asked for another hearing for DeVos, arguing that they need additional time to explore her potential conflicts of interest.
DeVos currently has holdings in 102 companies that could present conflicts. But she told the Office of Government Ethics last week that she plans to divest all of those financial holdings.
However, a spokesperson for the HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told the Post that DeVos has faced enough questions:
Betsy DeVos has already met with each committee member in their offices, spent nearly an hour and a half longer in her Senate hearing than either of President Obama’s education secretaries, and is now answering 837 written questions — 1,397 including all the questions within a question — that Democrats have submitted for her to answer. That’s compared with the 81 questions — 109 including all questions within a question — Republicans submitted in writing to Obama’s two Secretaries of Education combined.
DeVos, an advocate for school choice, has voiced support for charter schools and alternative education options, such as private school vouchers.