University of California president and former Obama cabinet member Janet Napolitano made an embarrassing gaffe Wednesday when she was caught on a hot mic referring to student protesters as “crap,” right after insisting that it’s important to listen to student voices.
During a meeting of the UC board of regents, about 30 student burst in to protest a plan to hike tuition by 25 percent over the next 5 years. Some of the students stripped down to their underwear to show they were giving “the shirts off their backs” to pay for school, and they also threw fake money in the air.
Napolitano, who served as President Barack Obama’s secretary of homeland security, was not pleased by the disruption.
“Let’s go. We don’t have to listen to this crap,” she told UC regent chairman Bruce Varner before walking out of the room. The comment wasn’t heard by the protesters, but it was caught on the video stream that was recording the meeting.
Shortly after her comment, Napolitano and the other regents left the room, and then returned after the protest dispersed.
Napolitano’s “secret” remark stands in sharp contrast to public remarks she made at the very same meeting.
“They want to be sure that their voices are being heard and I want to commit to them that their voices are being heard,” she said.
The student protesters were decidedly unimpressed with Napolitano after learning about her comment. “I don’t know where she’s coming from, but I’m assuming she’s never had to deal with these issues personally. So I can understand why there would be a disconnect there,” protester Kristian Kim told CBS San Francisco.
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