Sitting for an interview in her posh Georgetown mansion last week, Teresa Heinz Kerry, the billionaire widowed ketchup heiress now married to John Kerry, managed to simultaneously insult First Lady Laura Bush and all stay-at-home moms.
A reporter from USA Today asked Heinz Kerry, “You’d be different from Laura Bush?” She responded: “Well, you know, I don’t know Laura Bush. . . . But I don’t know that she’s ever had a real job–I mean, since she’s grown up. So her experience and her validation comes from important things, but different things. And I’m older, and my validation of what I do and what I believe and my experience is a little bit bigger–because I’m older, and I’ve had different experiences. And it’s not a criticism of her. It’s just, you know, what life is about.”
In fact, Heinz Kerry’s “bigger” job outside the home prior to marrying the late Sen. John Heinz was as a translator for the United Nations.
After Heinz died in a 1991 plane crash, she took control of his fortune, now estimated to be worth more than $1 billion. She also directs the Heinz Foundation, which gives away Heinz family money.
By contrast, Mrs. Bush, who holds a masters degree, worked four years as an elementary school teacher and four years as a school librarian. After her twins were born she worked as a full-time stay-at-home mother until she became First Lady–a job she has done with grace and discretion.
Heinz Kerry later apologized, but haplessly, saying: “I had forgotten that Mrs. Bush had worked as a school teacher and librarian, and there couldn’t be a more important job than teaching our children. . . . I am sincerely sorry I had not remembered her important work in the past.”
The most significant and politically damaging aspect of the insult Heinz Kerry directed at the First Lady, however, was its utter dismissal of Laura Bush’s work as a stay-at-home mom. This was not lost on Bush adviser Karen Hughes, who gave up her White House job to devote more time to her own family. “She’s essentially saying that being a mother, that rearing a family, is not a real job,” Hughes told Fox News.
Jay Leno offered this take: “Teresa Heinz Kerry’s defenders said, ‘Oh, she just says those things once in a while because she’s eccentric.’ You know what eccentric means? It’s when someone is crazy, but they’re rich. Like, you never see an eccentric homeless guy.”