Hardesty's dance to 'Electric Slide' draws scorn from council opponent
The latest controversy in a contentious City Council should not have been a surprise to Jo Ann Hardesty.
Hardesty has apologized to her opponent, Loretta Smith, for dancing with Baruti Artharee during a planned performance at a candidates forum on the arts on Oct. 1.
Smith publicly accused Artharee of sexually harassing her five years ago — and repeatedly said she was still offended by him during a joint appearance with Hardesty, just four days before the forum. On Tuesday, the day after the forum, Smith held a press conference to say how offended she was by Hardesty choosing to dance with Artharee in front of her at it.
"Tears have been rolling down my face — I feel violated all over. And my opponent laughed gleefully all the while," Smith said.
A short time later, Hardesty issued an apology to Smith, even though she had recently heard Smith repeatedly complain about Artharee. "I apologize for creating a painful and uncomfortable situation for her, which regardless of my intention to build community in the moment, was the impact. I send good thoughts to Commissioner Smith and all women in their healing processes. Regardless of party or the fact that we are running against each other, we must believe and support all women," it said in part.
The 'Electric Slide'
The orginal incident with Artharee took place in June 2013 at a public event. Smith was in her first term as commissioner and Artharee was working as a policy aide for then-Mayor Charlie Hales. When Artharee introduced Smith at the event, he made what she considered inappropriate comments about her appearance. According to a Willamette Week account, Artharee said that he found Smith physically attractive, and then made a suggestive motion with his hips.
Hales suspended Artharee for a week after Smith complained he sexually harassed her. Several months later, Artharee resigned.
During a Sept. 27 joint appearance before the Portland Tribune editorial board, Smith complained that the newspaper quoted Artharee in a Sept. 13 story on the council race criticizing her. He was quoted as saying Smith can sometimes "cry racism" inappropriately. With Hardesty sitting just a few feet from her, Smith said Artharee's inclusion in the article made her feel victimized again.
Four days later, at the arts forum sponsored by the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization. As part of it, both candidates were given a prearranged opportunity to share some creative work or performance. Smith read Maya Angelou's ode to resilience, "Still I Rise," which she pointed out should be heard in the context of Angelou's status as a survivor of sexual abuse.
Hardesty was up next. She teamed with Artharee and another man to a a 60-second version of "Electric Slide."
You can hear the full Portland Tribune editorial board interview at tinyurl.com/y9nmhsae.
This story includes reporting by Oregon Public Broadcasting, a news partner of the Portland Tribune.