Why don’t girls and women report the men who assault them? A 2003 case involving District 8 School Board Member Pat McPherson will tell you why.
Here are some facts not in dispute:
- On February 7, 2003, Douglas County Election Commissioner and former Douglas County Republican Party Chair Pat McPherson and his friend, Omaha City Council president Chuck Sigerson, went to dinner at a Red Robin restaurant in Omaha.
- The two were part of a group of eight who were offered free dinner and a limo ride to the restaurant after Sigerson wrote a letter complaining about a long wait at the restaurant’s grand opening the previous month.
- McPherson had been drinking–“a mai tai and the better part of a scotch,” by his own admission.
- A 17-year-old girl who worked at Red Robin was instructed that night to dress as the Red Robin mascot and entertain the table of VIP customers. As part of playing the mascot she was not allowed to speak.
- McPherson and Sigerson took photos with the girl.
- McPherson admitted to touching her on her back, shoulder, and abdomen, and tugged on the mascot’s tail.
- The girl left work upset immediately after her encounter with the men.
From here some facts are in dispute. A co-worker said that she witnessed McPherson acting inappropriately, and that McPherson said he wondered “what it would be like to have sex with a red robin.”
The girl said that when someone at the table asked about the robin’s sex, McPherson reached out and groped one of her breasts. She said that one of the men pulled open her costume to see her underwear. After this, she told her supervisor she needed to go home.
The restaurant knew Sigerson’s name because they had offered him the limo ride and dinner. Reportedly, employees contrived to get McPherson’s name by telling him they needed it to give him a birthday cake. This suggests not only that the employees thought it was important to get the men’s names that night, but also that the employees did not know who McPherson was when the girl told them what happened.
McPherson was charged with third-degree sexual assault and Sigerson was charged with disturbing the peace, which Sigerson said was “appeasement to the politically correct crowd” (LJS 4/24/2003).
At their trial, the prosecution explained that the girl was an honor student. The lawyers for McPherson and Sigerson claimed that she was a habitual liar and that she was only claiming they assaulted her in order to sue. As McPherson was testifying, the girl left the courtroom upset.
The girl testified her family had not filed a civil suit and had no plans to do so. A male co-worker claimed that some time after the incident the girl spoke about how she wanted to sue the two men. McPherson’s wife and Sigerson’s girlfriend testified on behalf of the Republican officials. McPherson’s wife said she had wanted a picture of her husband and the mascot, and her husband grabbed the costume’s tail to get her attention. “She shimmied back, just to have her picture taken with my husband,” she testified. Shimmied.
After deliberation, McPherson was found not guilty and Sigerson had a hung jury. One of McPherson’s friends called the trial “a political lynching,” because powerful Republican men facing any opprobrium whatsoever is something to compare to racism. [See also: Archer, Reyn, comparison of googly eyes to blackface.]
The Civil Suit
McPherson later sued Red Robin for the defamation he says he suffered. He claimed that the girl was maliciously out to get him because he was “a member of the privileged elite” (the judge’s words) and that she attempted to get another employee to provide false testimony against him. In fact, the judge decided, she only asked a co-worker to be a witness, not a false witness. The suit was dismissed.
Pat McPherson Has Something to Offer Everyone…but it’s Probably not Something You Want
Perhaps you were worried that Pat McPherson suffered a real career setback over these entirely credible allegations of groping a teenage girl. Never fear–the Nebraska Republican Party, a thinly veiled job placement program for morally bankrupt, mediocre white men–did right by Pat. He went on to be a consultant for Pete Ricketts’s Platte Institute. Then he became a member of the Nebraska State Board of Education–we can only surmise that he must have thought it meant “Bored of Education.” He has been in that position since 2014, despite calling President Obama a “half-breed” and saying gay people are “perverts” (unlike a groper!). He denied writing another post on his blog, a long white male grievance narrative asking “Are blacks incapable of taking care of themselves?” that dared “liberals” to call him a racist before launching into fascist mouthfroth about tax money going to the “offspring” of black women.
If you were living in Nebraska in 2003 and you Google the Red Robin incident, you might wonder where the then-ubiquitous photo of McPherson touching the mascot went. That thing was all over the news. Where is it? You tell us. Try finding the coverage of this on the Lincoln Journal Star–the only story on this topic we could find today on the LJS web site was one explaining that a judge was allowing McPherson’s defamation suit to proceed. Digital amnesia seems to have considerably afflicted this story–a story that is all too sickeningly familiar now.
McPherson is running for reelection today, Tuesday, November 6, 2018. Oh, and Pete Ricketts’s dad gave him over $10,000 to run. You know who definitely didn’t grope a high schooler or write a white supremacist grievance blog or take ten grand from the Ricketts family? His opponent, Deborah Neary.