Politicians Across Spectrum Condemn MP Recording Skip to content

Politicians Across Spectrum Condemn MP Recording

MPs across the political spectrum have voiced their condemnation of a recording in which six MPs from the Centre and People’s Parties are heard to make sexist comments about their female colleagues. While many of the individuals caught out in the scandal have issued apologies or retractions, Stundin reports that former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson is instead trying to shift the blame to the media at large.

Sigmundur Davíð was recorded in a bar last week while in conversation with fellow Centre Party MPs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Bergþór Ólason, and Anna Kolbrún Árnadóttir, as well as with People’s Party MPs Karl Gauti Hjaltason and Ólafur Ísleifsson. During the course of the conversation, Sigmundur Davíð, Gunnar Bragi, and Berþór suggest that one politician should be placed lower on the candidates list in upcoming primaries because she was no longer as “hot” as she used to be. Two female MPs were characterized as “cunts,” and a number of additional sexist and offensive comments were also made. Ironically, both Sigmundur Davíð and Gunnar Bragi have been vocal supporters of women’s issues in the recent past. Per Stundin: “In 2015, Financial Times selected [Sigmundur Davíð] as one of the world’s top feminist men for supporting the UN’s He for She campaign. [Gunnar Bragi] was also a vocal supporter of the campaign, addressing the UN on gender equality and receiving praise from campaign leader and actress Emma Watson.”

 

“These Comments Condemn Themselves”

The fallout from the recording has been considerable, even drawing criticism from parliamentarians whose political agenda often aligns with those of the Centre and People’s Parties. “It is, of course, only they who must answer for these comments,” remarked Independence Party MP Áslaug Arna. “It’s unbelievable that such men – who are, obviously, a bunch of beauty contest winners themselves – are passing judgement on the appearance and abilities of female parliamentarians who they work with.”

A group of female MPs from various parties met on Thursday to discuss the tapes. Progressive Party MP Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir, one of the women named and insulted in the recording, was in attendance. “I’ve only just now seen the news and I’m speechless, at least for the time being,” she said told RÚV. “I think these comments condemn themselves. I don’t need to play judge and jury.”

Inga Sæland, chairman of the People’s Party who was also belittled by name said that her party’s leaders would be meeting to discuss the recording. “I’m not trying to offer reprimands to my colleagues,” she remarked in a radio interview with Rás 2. “Neither they nor others who smile at you in the hallways at the same time that they are clearly driving a knife into your back as you walk by.”

 

Apologies Issued

Since the recording was made public, Karl Gauti Hjaltason has issued a public apology, as did his fellow People’s Party MP Ólafur Ísleifsson. (Ólafur later told RÚV that he was not particularly concerned about any particular consequences as a result of the recording going public.) The four MPs from the Centre Party who were present during the conversation issued a group apology, saying “[i]t wasn’t our intention to hurt anyone and it’s clear that such kind of talk…is inexcusable. We will resolve to learn from this and will endeavor to show courtesy and respect for our colleagues.”

 

“Made to Sound Like Political Plotting”

Following the public apology, however, Sigmundur Davíð took to Facebook on Wednesday night to declaim the publication of the recording and the media’s coverage of the scandal. “In some of what’s been printed, there are intentional or unintentional misquotes about what was being talked about and who said what,” he writes. The conversations of parliamentarians who are sitting together for a while and joking with one another is, moreover, made to sound like political plotting.”

“In reality,” he continues, “the most serious thing is that in Iceland, people have started to engage in tapping the private conversations of politicians…The group that is referred to sat alone in a corner and therefore, what we’re talking about here is nothing other than that someone has broken into one of the phones of someone who was there or used bugging equipment.”

“I don’t remember an example of something like this in Icelandic political history, and only one example from the UK,” the post continues. “It was when agents of the newspaper News of the World recorded a phone conversation between politicians and other well-known people. That conduct was treated as a serious matter and action was taken accordingly. I hope that this will be the case in Iceland, too. Otherwise, Icelandic politics and Icelandic society will change radically.”

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