A recording taken at a local bar, wherein male parliamentarians can be heard demeaning and dismissing their female colleagues, was leaked to the press and subsequently published yesterday. A few of the men involved have apologised, but Centre Party chairman Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has chosen to go on the defensive.
Stundin and DV have reported extensively on the matter, publishing the recordings and their transcripts in a few separate articles. These recordings were taken at the bar Klaustur, a favourite of parliamentarians, on November 20. Present in the recordings are MPs from the Centre Party and the People’s Party; specifically, Bergþór Ólason, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and Anna Kolbrún Árnadóttir of the Centre Party, with Karl Gauti Hjaltason and Ólafur Ísleifsson of the People’s Party.
“A raving mad cunt”
Their discussions concerned the attractiveness and mental stability of some of their female colleagues, with People’s Party chair Inga Sæland made a special target of derision. They also discussed working in closer cooperation with one another, including an offer to defect from one party to another.
Bergþór had some choice words to share with Karl and Ólafur about Inga, calling her “a raving mad cunt” who is “fucking crazy”, and extended an offer to them to leave the party and join up with the Centre Party.
“She’s really gone downhill”
The topic of conversation also turned to judging the attractiveness of other female colleagues; in particular, an unnamed woman MP from the Independence Party, with Gunnar Bragi calling her “a damn cute girl”, and Bergþór disagreeing, saying, “Now I’m going to say something that is naturally very rude, but she’s really gone downhill. She’s a lot less hot than she was only two years ago.” Sigmundur chimed in at this point to say, “So on those grounds, she will naturally plummet down the [candidates] list,” with Bergþór agreeing with the assessment. Anna Kolbrún can be heard asking how this would be if the unnamed woman were a man, with her male colleagues responding with rollicking laughter.
Progressive MP Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir was also not spared, with Bergþór saying she could not be trusted, and Anna Kolbrún calling her “dangerous”. Independence Party MP Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir is called a “bureaucratic hag” and Social Democrat MP Oddný Harðardóttir is called a “spaz” by Gunnar Bragi. These statements from Gunnar Bragi in particular are ironic in light of the fact then when he was Foreign Minister he led a special conference on gender equality just four years ago.
For whatever reason, at some point in the conversation Anna Kolbrún contends that men are dyslexic, while women are dyscalculic, i.e., they have difficulty with numbers.
“Is that why they don’t know how many people they’ve slept with,” replied Gunnar Bragi, with both Bergþór and Sigmundur Davíð agreeing.
One part of the recording that is particularly telling is Gunnar Bragi bragging about how he was able to appoint former Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde, who was found guilty of managerial neglect for his part in the 2008 financial collapse, to an ambassadorship in Washington DC without any objections from the Left-Greens.
In the recording, he contends that when he decided to appoint Geir to the position, he deliberately also appointed Left-Green MP Árni Þór Sigurðsson to an ambassadorship in Finland for the express purpose of directing attention away from Geir.
“All the attention when to Árni Þór,” Gunnar Bragi says in the recording. “Otherwise the Left-Greens would have gone crazy. Árni was naturally the delivery bitch of [then Left-Green chair] Steingrímur [J. Sigfússon]. … Geir said to me later, ‘Thank you very much. Nobody criticised me’.”
Response to these recordings have been varied. Gunnar Bragi was contrite in a radio interview this morning, saying that he was “very drunk” and that “one should not speak this way”, adding that the list of people he needs to apologise to is undoubtedly very long.
Karl and Bergþór issued a statement wherein they also apologised for the things they said, with Bergþór saying he has already apologised to Inga personally. For her part, Inga told RÚV that she takes the matter very seriously, saying the party will meet about the matter later today. Ólafur was less contrite, telling RÚV that he does not expect any particular consequences in the wake of the recordings’ release.
But the most unusual response of all came from Sigmundur Davíð, who took to Facebook not to apologise, but rather to turn the blame against the media itself.
“The most serious part of this in reality is that Iceland has started recording the private conversations of politicians,” he writes in part. “The group that is being referred to sat by themselves in a corner and so this means nothing other than someone had broken into someone’s phone and engaged in bugging.”
Sigmundur made no apologies for anything that he said in the recordings, and has not issued any such apology today, either. His contentions that someone’s phone was tapped are also, for the record, completely false.
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