Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, has quit his more than 50-year membership in the Owl Club, an all-male group that he joined as a student at Harvard University, his office said yesterday.

“He has decided to be taken off their rolls, believing it is a mistake to continue to be affiliated,” spokeswoman Laura Capps said yesterday.

The Massachusetts Democrat made the decision after several days of sharp criticism from conservatives accusing Mr. Kennedy of hypocrisy for grilling Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. over his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP).

Judge Alito’s “affiliation with an organization that fought the admission of women into Princeton calls into question his appreciation for the need for full equality in this country,” Mr. Kennedy said last week.

Mr. Kennedy’s club — the Owl — was kicked off the Harvard campus in 1984 because university officials said it violated Title IX of the Education Act of 1972, a Kennedy-championed law against sex-discrimination on college campuses.

Mr. Kennedy’s membership in the group was first reported last week by The Washington Times and quickly became a source of criticism among conservatives.

“Ted Kennedy, a member of the Owl Club himself at Harvard?” boomed radio host Rush Limbaugh. “Do you remember what the Owl Club was? Exactly what he was trying to make people think that CAP was at Princeton — a bunch of rich white kids who only wanted to associate with themselves.”

Ms. Capps called any comparison between the two groups “absurd.”

“Senator Kennedy joined Harvard’s Owl Club in 1954, a social organization similar to a fraternity, before women were admitted to the campus and long before they were integrated into campus life,” she said. “Senator Kennedy has not been an active member of the club since his days at Harvard.”

Lorne Gunter, a columnist for the National Post in Canada, dismissed that excuse.

“By that logic, if he had joined the Klan before it became overtly racist, he would be exempted from blame for its later white supremacist ideals,” wrote Mr. Gunter, quickly adding that he could not care less whether Mr. Kennedy belongs to such a group except for the “hypocrisy” it proves.

At last week’s hearings, Judge Alito said he had scant memory of CAP and said he probably joined it because he was a member of the ROTC, which Princeton had kicked off campus at the height of the 1960s anti-military fervor. CAP criticized that action.

Ms. Capps said Mr. Kennedy’s Owl Club and Judge Alito’s CAP are completely different.

“No one can question Senator Kennedy’s lifelong commitment to fighting for civil rights, equality and justice,” she said. “There is absolutely nothing in common between this social club and an organization like CAP that was established to push a political agenda to prohibit women and minorities from attending Princeton.”

Group members, though, say CAP was founded to resist liberal culture on the university’s campus, including admission quotas for ethnic minorities and women.

In an interview this week with WHDH in Boston, Mr. Kennedy said he still pays $100 dues to the Owl.

Asked why he would be in a club that refuses to allow women, Mr. Kennedy replied, “I shouldn’t be and I’m going to get out of it as fast as I can.”

Television reporter Andy Hiller then inquired whether Mr. Kennedy thought that he could get approved by the Judiciary Committee.

“Probably not,” he responded. “Probably not.”

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide