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UPDATE: McKeon opens women's conference, confronted by activists

Group calls for Marine Corps to pull sponsorship of Ultimate Fighting Championship events

Posted: September 8, 2012 1:34 p.m.
Updated: September 8, 2012 3:11 p.m.

Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, opened his third annual women’s conference Saturday by discussing the importance of women’s contributions in his life, then fielded questions from a group criticizing military support of a popular cage-fighting promoter.

“This is not the appropriate forum,” McKeon said to Downey resident Beatriz Topete, who raised the issue of U.S. Marine Corps sponsorship of the Ultimate Fighting Championship cage-fighting events.

Topete told McKeon the cage-fighting promotional organization has condoned misogyny and sexually explicit depictions of women, which is not something the military should associate with in any way.

McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, protested that the women’s conference held at College of the Canyons was an apolitical event, “but since you said something, I’ll talk about it.”

The congressman recounted his involvement in hearings and an investigation into the recent Lackland Air Force Base scandal, which has already resulted in the ousting of base commander Col. Glenn Palmer amid a rape conviction for his underlings and allegations of sex crimes.

“I’m flying back to Washington tomorrow and I’m stopping by Lackland to talk to officials,” McKeon said, explaining there have been weeks of hearings to assure the perpetrators are being brought to justice.

The crowd of some 60 conference attendees, most of them woman and many invited to the event via email from McKeon, seemed more interested in attending the women’s workshops after introductory remarks than in the cage-fighting issue.

“I’m all for women’s issues,” said Dionne Williams of Lancaster. “But there’s a time and a place for everything, and I just thought it was rude,” she said of Topete’s appeal to the congressman.

Williams was left paralyzed by a head-on collision, and she said she enjoyed the networking opportunities McKeon’s conferences provided her.

The conference offered discussions on how to achieve financial security, providing small-business support and successful networking tips.

An Army veteran who served in the 1980s in Germany and Washington, Topete said she has been proud to see how far the military has progressed since her service, but that doesn’t make the current sponsorship of cage-fighters who degrade women, or of ads that depict comparisons of Marines and cage-fighters, any more palatable to her group.

Topete is the organizing director of the veteran’s committee of Unite Here, a hospitality industry labor union seeking McKeon’s signature on a petition to stop the military ties to the popular cage-fighting promoter.
Topete, and Chris Serres, a research analyst with Unite Here, continued their questioning as McKeon made his exit.




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