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The Sheriff Speaks

Lauren Smiley | March 9, 2012 | Story Reporters Notebook Politics Profiles News and Features

You were always known as a skilled orator who would readily, and loudly, share his opinion on any topic. Yet you made a major miscalculation in choosing to describe the alleged domestic violence incident with your wife, Eliana Lopez, as a "private family matter." Why did you choose those words?

I absolutely agree that domestic violence is not a private family matter. I never ever thought otherwise. On January 8, five days before being charged, I was advised to say that while under investigation, this remains a private family matter and that domestic violence didn't occur between me and my wife. Eliana said nearly the same thing. The next thing we knew, I was facing a runaway train of innuendo, rumor, and social disgrace. I wanted immediately to correct the record but was advised not to—that was a huge mistake in my opinion.

What has it been like for all these personal details—details of fights with your spouse, emails and leftover panties from your exes—to spill out into the press?

It has been humiliating and the most difficult experience of my life because there has not been an appropriate opportunity for me or my wife to tell the facts as we know them. That notwithstanding, I will spend the rest of my life trying to become a better man, husband, and father.

Can you talk about what having a child has meant to you, a politician in your late 40s, who had never been a parent before?

My child [Theo, 2] is my everything. He was born at home. Eliana was in labor for 17 hours without any intervention. We prepared for the moment, had a midwife, but I still felt like a clumsy copilot. I caught Theo, cut his umbilical cord, and worship the ground that he and his mother walk on. In my mid-40s, I wasn't sure if I'd ever become a parent, but when faced with the reality, I embraced fatherhood unlike anything before. I thank my wife and son every day for teaching me that I'm no longer the center of the universe.

Your mom had you in her teens and worked her way through an undergrad and graduate degree while raising you. How has your upbringing affected your politics and relationships with women?

My mother had me at 19. My father, from Iran, was 21. They divorced when I was young. It was not easy for a number of reasons, but especially when we barely had any money. It was some years later that I realized that some of my best times with her were watching her politics blossom. She became a leader in her own right during the struggle for civil rights, against the Vietnam War, and for feminist rights. I was also brought up by her two sisters, my grandmother and great grandmother, who were a healthy part of my upbringing. I was brought up by five strong women.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I do consider myself a feminist. It's more than a political commitment and a philosophy, underscored by my legislative and activist record. I deeply regret that my commitment to women's rights seems to also be on trial.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.


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