Shoegate: Miller Center of controversy

Miller Center board member Fred Scott resigned after a controversy known as "shoegate," which led his wife to claim in emails that he is a "kind-hearted, cuddly bear" who meant no harm. Photo by Eric Kelley Miller Center board member Fred Scott resigned after a controversy known as “shoegate,” which led his wife to claim in emails that he is a “kind-hearted, cuddly bear” who meant no harm. Photo by Eric Kelley

The usually staid UVA institution devoted to the study of the U.S. presidency has recently found itself mired in controversy, first with the hiring of Trump administrator Marc Short, and then with the August 31 resignation of Miller Center board member Fred Scott—and the revelation of resignations of two other unnamed board members because of inappropriate behavior.

Politico broke the “shoegate” story that precipitated the resignation of Scott, whose family name is on Scott Stadium and who sold his Bundoran Farm, now a high-end preservation development, in 2005.

Scott offered to take 10 female Miller Center staffers shopping at deluxe shoe boutique Scarpa, and some were offended by the shopping spree Scott said was in honor of his mother’s 102nd birthday, according to emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

In a May 2, 2017, email, Scott admits he’s been called “clueless” before and apologized for his misstep. But it was an email the next day that led to his resignation more than a year later.

In that missive to then-council chair Gene Fife with a subject line “What set them off,” Scott really stepped in it with observations such as, “There are no United White People College Funds or White Students’ Alliances or Men Against Drunk Driving. Even at a ‘tolerant university’… especially there! Women’s Initiative. We both support it. Is there a Men’s Initiative???”

He speculated that some people “just like to stir up trouble” and may not be the best to promote and others “dislike/envy those who are more successful, privileged, or powerful.”

As a result of Shoegate and the misbehavior of two unnamed Governing Council members at an October 17, 2017, dinner, the Miller Center adopted a code of conduct in January that instructs council members “not to discriminate against, harass, or exert authority or undue influence” on staff or faculty, according to a statement from the center.

Scott declined to comment, but in his resignation letter, he professed puzzlement at the reaction to what was supposed to be a generous offer, and said he had “no interest in putting anyone in an awkward situation.”

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