Linda Lou Chavez (born June 17, 1947) is an American author,
commentator, and radio talk show host. She is also a
Chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity, has a syndicated column
that appears in newspapers nationwide each week, and sits on the board
of directors of two Fortune 1000 companies:
Industries. Chavez was the highest-ranking woman in President Ronald
Reagan's White House, and was the first Latina ever nominated to the
United States Cabinet, when President
George W. Bush
George W. Bush
Secretary of Labor. She withdrew from consideration for the position
when the media published allegations that she had employed an illegal
immigrant a decade earlier. In 2000, Chavez was named a Living Legend
by the Library of Congress.
1 Early life and family
2 Background with labor unions
3 Career in Republican administrations
3.1 Secretary of Labor nomination
4 Run for U.S. Senate
5 Columnist and commentator
Political action committees and non-profit foundations
8 Awards and recognitions
10 See also
12 External links
Early life and family
Chavez was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the daughter of Velma Lucy
(née McKenna) and Rudolfo Enrique Chavez, a tail gunner in World War
II who worked as a house painter. She is of Neomexicana
descent on her father's side. Her father was descended from immigrants
to New Spain from Spain in the 1500s; his family had lived in the New
Mexico area for several hundred years, his ancestor Diego de Montoya
(born in Texcoco, New Spain, in 1596) was the leader of an encomienda,
a protectorate of
Puebloan peoples in Pueblo San Pedro in New
Mexico. This ancestor of Chavez is shared with actor Adrian
Grenier who is thus her ninth cousin. Another ancestor of Chavez
is Mexican politician and general
Manuel Armijo who served as governor
of the Mexican territory of New Mexico, then as a general of the
Mexican Army, surrendering to U.S. forces in the Mexican–American
War. Her mother was of English and Irish ancestry. Chavez earned a
Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Colorado in 1970. She
attended graduate school at UCLA.
She is married to Christopher Gersten, former Bush Administration
official, and is the mother of three adult sons, David, Pablo, and
Rudy. She is a grandmother of nine and resides with her family in
Boulder, Colorado. Chavez was raised Catholic and converted to Judaism
on June 9, 1967, when marrying her husband. Chavez said in 1986
that she was never a practicing Jew, and that the conversion papers
were signed simply to allow the wedding ceremony to take place. She
said she was "an on-again, off-again practicing Catholic." Some of
Chavez's distant paternal ancestors had been Conversos (Sephardic Jews
who converted to Catholicism).
Background with labor unions
Starting in 1975, Chavez was employed within the inner circles of the
United States second largest teachers' union, the American Federation
of Teachers, where she was responsible for editing that organization's
publications. She was a confidante of Al Shanker, the
AFT's president. While she believed in President Shanker's personal
philosophy of trade unionism, she eventually came to feel that many in
the organization were intent on moving the union in another direction
after Shanker's inevitable departure. She later wrote that the more
she learned about the goals of these newer union leaders, the less
comfortable she felt in the organization. She left the AFT in 1983.
Career in Republican administrations
Chavez has held a number of appointed positions, among them White
House Director of Public Liaison (1985), under President Ronald
Reagan; Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
(1983–1985) appointed by President Reagan; and Chairman of the
National Commission on Migrant Education (1988–1992) under President
George H.W. Bush. Concurrently with some of these positions she served
as a member of the Administrative Conference of the United States
(1984–1986) under President Reagan.
In 1992, Chavez was elected by the United Nations Human Rights
Commission to serve a four-year term as U.S. Expert to the U.N.
Sub-commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of
Minorities. In August 1993, the sub-commission asked Chavez to study
systematic rape, sexual slavery and slavery-like practices during
wartime, including internal armed conflict. As
Chavez reported regularly for nearly four years to different
sub-commission meetings. In May 1997, Chavez asked that the final
report be finished and delivered by a colleague, and was granted
permission to withdraw from the project. (On June 22, 1998, her
successor, Gay McDougall, released the final version of "Contemporary
Forms of Slavery".)
Chavez was the head of Governor George W. Bush's taskforce on
immigration when he ran for president in 2000, and she later met with
him on a number of occasions while he was president to discuss
Secretary of Labor nomination
In 2001, President
George W. Bush
George W. Bush nominated Chavez for Secretary of
Labor. She was the first Hispanic woman nominated to a United States
However, she withdrew from consideration after it was revealed,
through her neighbor Margaret "Peggy" Zwisler, that she had allegedly
given money to Marta Mercado, a one-time illegal immigrant from
Guatemala who lived in her home more than a decade earlier.
Mercado was given room and board in Chavez's Bethesda home, in
addition she was said by columnist Roger Simon to have been given
"$100 to $150... every few weeks" for performing household chores for
Chavez such as "vacuuming, laundry, cleaning and child care."
Chavez withdrew as President Bush's nominee but stated she never felt
pressure from Bush's political team to do so. Chavez has always
maintained that she knew Mercado was in the United States illegally,
stating "I think I always knew."
Run for U.S. Senate
In 1986, Chavez left her post as the highest ranking woman in Ronald
White House in an attempt to win the Senate seat in Maryland
being vacated by retiring three-term liberal Republican Charles
Mathias. She ran as a Republican against Democrat Barbara Mikulski.
The election was the second time in modern U.S. history that two women
faced each other in a statewide general election. The race was covered
by national media, with observers noting that Chavez was very unlikely
In the campaign, Chavez attacked Mikulski, a lifelong Baltimore
resident, as a "San Francisco-style, George McGovern, liberal
Democrat." Chavez was accused of making Mikulski's sexual
orientation a central issue of the political campaign. Chavez wrote
that the term referred to Jeane Kirkpatrick's 1984 Republican National
Convention "Blame America First" speech, in which she coined the
phrase "San Francisco Liberal" in reference to the Democratic National
Convention in San Francisco. Using political advertisements and
press conferences, Chavez attacked Mikulski's former aide Teresa
Brennan as "anti-male" and a "radical feminist", a tactic that Victor
Kamber observed to be implying that Brennan and Mikulski were radical
lesbians, and that "fascist feminism" was Mikulski's political
philosophy. Brennan had not been part of Mikulski's staff for
five years, but Chavez implied Brennan was still working on Mikulski's
campaign. Mikulski did not respond in kind to the barbs. She
defeated Chavez with 61% of the vote.
Columnist and commentator
Beginning July 1, 1990, Chavez was paired with
Bonnie Erbé in the
"Our Turn" op-ed column syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate. From
opposing ideological viewpoints, the two columnists addressed topics
of current interest, questions such as whether the glass ceiling was a
myth, whether American women should serve in combat, and whether
surrogate motherhood should be banned. In 1991, Erbé, Chavez
and the "Our Turn" column were picked up by Creators Syndicate. They
continued to field polarizing political questions related to women and
gender such as whether men's clubs should continue to be allowed to
Chavez published her first book, Out of the Barrio: Toward a New
Politics of Hispanic Assimilation, in 1991. She wrote that American
Hispanics should not have followed the same path as African Americans,
seeking compensation for discrimination via affirmative action. She
wrote that Hispanics should assimilate themselves and use the English
language in mainstream society.
Chavez quit PBS's
To the Contrary
To the Contrary after a May 12, 2000, incident when
the host, Erbé, made the claim on air that, at her age, Chavez was
more likely to be hit by lightning than raped. The comment was
made during a discussion on gun control and whether it was necessary
for Chavez to obtain a gun to defend herself against a potential rape.
Chavez and Erbé argued on the opposite sides of the gun ownership
issue. After an absence of more than seven years, Chavez returned to
the program on January 18, 2008 and is listed as a panelist on its
In early January 2001 Chavez stopped writing her column because she
was in consideration for the position of Secretary of Labor. After
withdrawing under controversy, she resumed her affiliation with the
syndicate. Richard Newcombe, president of Creators Syndicate, said
that he thought the controversy and exposure would be good for
Chavez's writing career.
Chavez is currently a syndicated columnist with
Creators Syndicate and
Fox News political commentator. She frequently appears on a number
of national news programs, including The O'Reilly Factor, the Glenn
Beck show, Hannity and Colmes, The Rush Limbaugh Show, Good Morning
America, The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and Fox and Friends. She has
previously been a regularly panelist on The McLaughlin Group,
Crossfire, and Eye on Washington. She has guest-hosted several shows,
including Hannity and Colmes, sitting in for Sean Hannity, and To the
Contrary, sitting in for Erbé.
Political action committees and non-profit foundations
In 1986, Chavez became president of U.S. English, a non-profit
dedicated to establishing English as the official language of the
United States. She resigned in 1988 following comments by co-founder
John Tanton which she regarded as "anti-Hispanic" and
Chavez is the founder and chairwoman of the Center for Equal
Opportunity, a conservative think tank which focuses on three specific
areas: affirmative action, immigration and bilingual education. In
2007, the Washington Post reported that between 1997 and 2003, her
salary from that foundation ranged from $125,000 to $136,000. In 2004,
the last year for which records were available to the Post, she was
paid $70,000; that year the foundation also paid her son David
$83,000. From 1998 to 2001, her husband, Chris Gersten, was paid
$64,000 a year from the Institute for Religious Values, another
foundation she helped start. By comparison, between 2003 and 2006, the
two foundations, plus two others founded by Chavez and her family,
raised about $350,000 per year, combined. Chavez said that "I guess
you could call it the family business."
The Post also reported that Chavez and her family, through political
action committees they had created, including the Republican Issues
Committee, the Latino Alliance, Stop Union Political Abuse, and the
Pro-Life Campaign Committee, had further family income. In 2001, the
PACs paid Chavez's husband $77,000, her son Pablo $25,000, and her son
David about $10,000. Then, from 2002 through 2006, the PACs paid
Chavez and her family $261,000. The PACs raised $24.5 million from
January 2003 to December 2006, with a total of $242,000 of that money
being given to politicians.
According to campaign finance records, the Pro-Life Campaign Committee
was fined $150,000 in May 2006 for failing to file accurate records
Federal Election Commission
Federal Election Commission (FEC). In 2006, Latino Alliance
negotiated a $2,500 settlement with the FEC for filing incomplete
records. In 2007, the Republican Issues Committee paid a $110,000 fine
for failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in
contributions and expenditures.
In January 2008, Chavez and her husband said that they planned to shut
down all of their PACs.
Chavez is a Director of two Fortune 1000 companies, Pilgrim's Pride
and ABM Industries. Pilgrims Pride is the largest poultry producer in
the United States, and
ABM Industries is the 2nd largest property
management company in the United States. Chavez is a past Board member
Greyhound Lines as well as the Foundation for Teaching Economics.
Chavez sits on the Boards of several non-profit organizations,
including the Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and was named to
the advisory board of the Bruin Alumni Association.
Awards and recognitions
In 2000, Chavez was named a Library of Congress Living Legend.
Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation.
1991. ISBN 0-465-05431-5.
An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal (Or How
I Became the Most Hated Hispanic in America. 2002.
With Gray, Daniel (2004). Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their
Members and Corrupt American Politics. ISBN 1-4000-5259-9.
"Donald Trump's America". Commentary Magazine: 13-19. October 13,
2015. ISSN 0010-2601. Retrieved August 4, 2017. (PDF
Unsuccessful nominations to the Cabinet of the United States
^ a b c Stated on Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., May
20, 2012, PBS
^ "Chavez: Unusual Path From There To Here". Chicago Tribune. January
^ Jurgensen, John (March 22, 2012). "Doubling Down on DNA". The Wall
^ Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. (2014). Finding Your Roots: The Official
Companion to the PBS Series. UNC Press Books. p. 382.
^ Hernandez, Macarena (August 19, 1998). "Conservative and Hispanic,
Linda Chavez Carves Out Leadership Niche". The New York Times.
^ "Boschwitz's push pulls him into dispute". Star Tribune. November 1,
^ a b Margolis, Jon (October 9, 1986). "Liberal Dose Of Barbs In
Maryland". Chicago Tribune.
^ Radosh, Ronald (Winter 2003). "A Uniquely American Life". American
Outlook. Hudson Institute. Archived from the original on September 30,
^ "Center for Equal Opportunity". official biography. Retrieved
October 9, 2009.
^ Chavez, Linda (September 30, 2003). An Unlikely Conservative: The
Transformation of an Ex-Liberal (Or How I Became the Most Hated
Hispanic in America). Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-08904-8.
^ "Letter Accepting the Resignation of
Linda Chavez as Deputy
Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public
Liaison". February 3, 1986. Retrieved July 25, 2009.
^ The report brought wider attention to the lasting harm to human
rights caused by Japan's comfort women program during World War II. It
detailed the official Japanese government stance against individual
compensation of surviving comfort women as well as the UN's own legal
position regarding Japan's guilt and liability. MacDougall was awarded
MacArthur Fellows Program
MacArthur Fellows Program "genius" grant the year after delivering
the joint study.Gay J. McDougall. "Report of the
Special Rapporteur on
systematic rape". Retrieved November 12, 2007.
White House photograph of President Bush meeting with Immigration
Reform participants on March 23, 2006
^ Schmitt, Eric; McLean, Renwick (February 8, 2001). "Onetime Illegal
Immigrant Sheltered by Chavez Recalls Painful Past". The New York
^ Simon, Roger (January 12, 2001). "Chavez was not straight with
Bush". Ellensburg Daily Record. p. A4. Retrieved August 3,
^ Fournier, Ron (January 9, 2001). "Chavez Withdraws As Labor
Nominee". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved November
^ Philip D. Duncan, Brian Nutting, ed. (1999). CQ's Politics in
America 2000: the 106th Congress. CQ Press. p. 606.
^ a b Miller, John J. (July 8, 2004). "The Outing". National Review
^ Kamber, Victor (2003). Poison Politics: Are Negative Campaigns
Destroying Democracy?. Basic Books. p. 152.
^ Sheckels, Theodore F. (2006).
Maryland Politics and Political
Communication, 1950–2005. Lexington Books. p. 84.
^ Harari, Fiona (2011). A Tragedy in Two Acts: Marcus Einfeld and
Teresa Brennan. Melbourne Univ. Publishing. p. 70.
^ Dendy, Dallas L., Jr.; Anderson, Donnald K. (1987). "Statistics of
the Congressional Election of November 4, 1986" (PDF). U.S. Government
Printing Office. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
^ "New Feature Argues Two Sides of Issue". St. Paul Pioneer Press. St.
Paul, Minnesota. July 1, 1990. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
^ Chavez, Linda; Erbé, Bonnie (August 22, 1990). "The 'Glass
Ceiling': Myth Or Reality For Women?". The Seattle Times. Retrieved
August 3, 2012.
^ Chavez, Linda; Erbé, Bonnie (February 4, 1991). "Let Private Clubs
Exclude by Gender?". The Telegraph-Herald. Dubuque, Iowa. p. 4A.
Retrieved August 3, 2012.
^ "Chavez, Controversial Choice, Withdraws As Labor Nominee". Puerto
Rico Herald. Associated Press. January 9, 2001. Archived from the
original on June 28, 2011. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
^ Bozell III, L. Brent (June 16, 2000). "Liberal incivility reigns at
PBS TV". Human Events. Archived from the original on April 14, 2008.
Retrieved August 17, 2007.
To the Contrary
To the Contrary showlist 2008". PBS program website. Retrieved
October 9, 2009.
To the Contrary
To the Contrary panelists". PBS program website. Retrieved October
^ Jones, Tim (January 11, 2001). "Chavez May Turn Controversy into
Opportunity". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
Linda Chavez ABC News
^ a b Matthew Mosk, (August 13, 2007). "In Fundraising's Murky
Corners: Candidates See Little of Millions Collected by Linda Chavez's
Family". Washington Post.
^ a b Matthew Murray (January 16, 2008). "
Linda Chavez to Halt
Fundraising". Roll Call.
^ The National Campaign To Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Playing Catch-Up:
How Children Born to Teen Mothers Fare Archived October 12, 2007, at
the Wayback Machine.
^ "Bruin Alumni Advisory Board Member – Linda Chavez". Bruin Alumni
Association. Archived from the original on February 25, 2008.
^ "Awards and Honors, Library of Congress: Linda Chavez". Library of
Congress. 2000. Retrieved October 9, 2009.
Center for Equal Opportunity web site
Podcasts of Chavez's recent articles
Appearances on C-SPAN
Booknotes interview with Chavez on Out of the Barrio, March 22, 1992.
Director of the Office of Public Liaison
Party political offices
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Maryland
Assistant to the President for Public Liaison
William J. Baroody Jr.
Cecile B. Kremer
Mary Beth Cahill
Julie E. Cram
Johnny DeStefano (Acting)
Fox News anchors and correspondents
Patti Ann Browne
John "Bradshaw" Layfield
ISNI: 0000 0003 8545 5372
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