HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell was picked up on an open microphone explaining why Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano is a good choice for Homeland Security secretary: The job requires someone who has “no life,” and Napolitano is perfect because she “has no family.”
Rendell made the comment Tuesday at a meeting of the National Governors Association in Philadelphia that featured President-elect Barack Obama.
Rendell said Napolitano is “perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it.”
Napolitano, a second-term governor, former state attorney general and former U.S. attorney, has never been married and has no children.
Napolitano’s spokeswoman, Jeanine L’Ecuyer, said the Arizona governor described Rendell as a good friend and had little to say about his remarks.
“She said she really appreciates Gov. Rendell’s confidence in her and the confidence of the president-elect,” L’Ecuyer said.
L’Ecuyer deflected questions about whether the comment could be construed as sexist.
“There’s a lot of people weighing in on that. We’ll leave it to you guys to do that,” she said.
At a news conference in Harrisburg, Rendell said former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who became the first Homeland Security secretary under President George W. Bush, “told me you have to live that job every minute.”
“I think it’s clear, to do that job you have to be ready to work 24-7,” Rendell said. “You can’t have another job, you can’t have an avocation you’re addicted to like golf or anything like that.”
He said he “didn’t mean it the wrong way” and called Napolitano “one of the best governors in the country.”
“If anybody out there was offended, I apologize,” Rendell said. “But you could say the exact same thing to me, about me.” Rendell is married to a federal judge and they have an adult son.
Rendell press secretary Chuck Ardo said he did not know with whom Rendell was speaking at the time.
In a similar incident nearly four years ago, a leading Arizona state senator apologized to Napolitano after making light of her status as a lawyer and person without a family.
Senate President Ken Bennett was critical of Napolitano’s positions regarding lawsuit reform and family values.
“She’s a lawyer, and she doesn’t have a family,” Bennett said at the time. He later called the governor to apologize.