Don't Call Her Nancy

Lawmakers sensitive about being called by their first names

By Josh Gerstein
|  Thursday, Aug 6, 2009  |  Updated 3:08 AM EDT
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That's Speaker Pelosi to you.

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So maybe Liz isn’t the only one. 

During discussions about a climate-change TV ad last year, a staffer for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nixed a line from a script that had former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calling her “Nancy.” 

"She will not want Newt calling her 'Nancy' in the ad, though, so I am removing that from what I show her," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill wrote in an April 2, 2008, e-mail to the communications director for the Alliance for Climate Protection, the group that produced the ad. 

In the final script of the ad, Pelosi sits with Gingrich on a couch in front of the Capitol and calls him by his first name. But he doesn't refer to her by name or title at all. 

"We don't always see eye to eye, do we, Newt?" she says. 

"No, but we do agree that our country must take action to address climate change," he replies. 

Hammill said Wednesday Pelosi is no stickler for formality and he was simply trying to preserve parity between the two political heavyweights. 

“If you ask her, she’d say she prefers to be called ‘Nancy,’” he said. “For a commercial, it just wasn’t, I thought, appropriate. It didn’t have her calling him ‘Newt’ back. It was just him calling her ‘Nancy.” 

Told that the final version has her calling Gingrich by his first name, Hammill said she might have ad libbed. “This all happened a long time ago,” he said. “They didn’t always stay on script.” 

The e-mail from Pelosi’s office appears in a Federal Election Commission document released to POLITICO Wednesday. The FEC memo, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, [detail] details the commission staff's recommendation to pursue a case charging that the ads amounted to a violation of Federal election law because they ran in Pelosi's district during a primary campaign period. 

Citing "limited resources," the FEC voted, 5-0, to reject that recommendation and close the case. Details of what kind of fine or penalty the commission's lawyers wanted to impose were deleted from the records disclosed to POLITICO. 

Hammill said the climate group, founded by Vice President Al Gore, had assured Pelosi’s office in advance that the ads had all required legal clearances. “The onus was on them,” he said. 

In June, Elizabeth Becton, a staffer for Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), gained fame worldwide after POLITICO published an extended e-mail exchange in which she berated a correspondent for referring to her as “Liz.” 

Later that same month, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), drew a lot of attention when she insisted on being called "senator" and not "ma'am" by a brigadier general testifying at a Congressional hearing

"It's just a thing, I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it, yes, thank you," Boxer said. 

Gingrich himself has also been subject to bouts of pride. While speaker in 1995, he famously took public offense at being told to get off Air Force One via the “back ramp.”

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