NOW Chapter Takes Aim At Clinton
Group ready to split with national leadership
By Dana Schwartz/CNN
WASHINGTON (Feb. 24) -- The president of a Northern Virginia chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) says its members are ready to break from the main organization because they say the national leadership has been too easy on President Bill Clinton over his alleged sexual improprieties.
Marie Jose-Ragab, president of the Dulles chapter of NOW, told CNN it is unacceptable for NOW President Patricia Ireland and others to say the alleged relationship between Clinton and former intern Monica Lewinsky is not sexual harassment.
"This is the ultimate in sexual harassment," Jose-Ragab said. "We have a pattern of standing up for issues having to do with sexual harassment, now we're being selective. This is not the nature of our organization. We're above partisan politics, we defend all women."
Jose-Ragab said at the chapter's executive committee meeting last Thursday, the six members tacitly agreed after long debate they would vote this week to become a dissident chapter of NOW, publically expressing their disapproval, until there is a modification in the leadership.
"They have to step down if they can't stand up for the rights of all women," said Jose-Ragab, speaking of the top national leadership.
A spokesperson for NOW's national organization said the Northern Virginia chapter has never expressed any dissatisfaction with the leadership or their position, but that with more than 500 local chapters, it is not surprising that one may disagree.
Jose-Ragab admitted she has not yet contacted the national chapter but said she felt they would not listen to her complaints. Jose-Ragab refused to disclose the number of members in the local chapter, saying it was against the organization's rules.
NOW has remained supportive of Clinton in light of his alleged affair with Lewinsky. The group says it wants more details.
NOW President Patricia Ireland said in an interview earlier this month that if Clinton did have a relationship with Lewinsky, it was consensual, which caused a firestorm of criticism from conservative women's groups who call the organization hypocritical.
This is the first local chapter of NOW to express concern about the organization's stand on the issue.
"National could just get rid of us, but that's fine with us. If they want to close us down, excommunicate us, they're welcome to do it, but we will not lie to women," said Jose-Ragab.
Jose-Ragab says the official vote of on the issue will probably be Wednesday or Thursday. They decided against officially becoming a dissident chapter until they could contact three of the chapter's founding members.