Donna Dewitt, the president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, has spent two years doing battle with Republican Gov. Nikki Haley. At a picnic this past weekend, Dewitt put on what she thought was a playful demonstration of her feelings toward the South Carolina governor and GOP star -- by taking a baseball bat to a pinata bearing Haley's face, to the enthusiastic cheers of her fellow progressives.
By Tuesday afternoon, Haley had posted a YouTube video of the bashing on her Facebook page, where the governor's supporters unleashed a torrent of anti-union comments. "Wow," Haley wrote in her post. "I wonder if the unions think this kind of thing will make people take them seriously."
In an interview with HuffPost, Dewitt said Tuesday that, despite any negative publicity, she has no regrets about the pinata smackdown, which she insists was all in good fun. The picnic, she notes, was not an AFL-CIO gathering, but instead a powwow for the South Carolina Progressive Network, a coalition of several dozen left-of-center groups.
"It was all fun and games, and there was certainly no ill intent," Dewitt said. "Guys who know me know we've had to fight the governor and her comments on unions. She's been taking whacks at us for a couple of years."
The Washington-based AFL-CIO itself wasn't amused by the performance. "While it was meant as fun, there is absolutely no place for that kind of joke in a conversation that is extremely serious about how to rebuild our middle class and our country," spokeswoman Alison Omens said in a statement. "There's plenty to talk about in Gov. Haley's awful record. We do not believe that's an appropriate joke -- working people deserve a better conversation."
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey also denounced the pinata beating and took the opportunity to knock union leaders generally. "There is no place for that in civil public discourse, and that video no more represents the people of South Carolina than union bosses represent our workers," Godfrey said.
Haley has been a fiery critic of unions in right-to-work South Carolina, while labor groups like the state's AFL-CIO have painted the governor as a close friend of corporate interests. In her state of the state speech earlier this year, Haley attacked unions head on. "I love that we are one of the least unionized states in the country. It is an economic development tool unlike any other," she said. "We don't have unions in South Carolina because we don't need unions in South Carolina."
Dewitt said she's received a lot of supportive phone calls since the video blew up, although she admitted her picnic-goers could have chosen a more discreet game to play.
"We could have played 'pin the tail on the donkey,' and put [Haley's] face on the donkey," Dewitt said. "That would have suited me fine."
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