"Bottom line – we decided yesterday to not attend – given the distractions that looked like were developing – and therefore allow the event, and the other honorees, to move forward without any distractions," said GM spokesperson Patrick Morrissey.
Susan Murphy, a spokesperson for the National Women's History Museum says the museum's board of directors has not ruled out honoring Barra at a future date.
The mother of a 16-year-old girl killed by a faulty General Motors ignition switch said it was a "slap in the face" that the company's CEO was selected to receive a national award honoring the achievements of women.
Amid an outcry of protests from grieving family members and others, the National Women's History Museum now says it won't bestow CEO Mary Barra with that award Monday night.
Barra was scheduled to receive the Katharine Graham Living Legacy Award from the museum in Washington, DC. But Wednesday, museum officials said they would not give Barra the award as planned. It was not clear whether the museum had rescinded the invitation or if Barra had bowed out. It was also unknown whether the institution still intends to honor Barra at a later date.
The museum's board of directors was meeting Thursday morning, and members were not available for comment.
Family members of motorists killed by a defective GM ignition switch sent a letter to the museum protesting its decision to honor Barra earlier this week. The first-year CEO has been embroiled in the company's ongoing safety crisis, in which at least 32 motorists were killed while the company delayed in ordering a recall for 2.6 million affected vehicles.
"... Barra should focus on GM's remaining safety problems before traveling around the country to accept awards." - Peter Flaherty
For Laura Christian, birth mother of 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, a victim of a 2005 crash linked to the ignition switch, the museum's decision was heartfelt and welcome. She spoke with a museum representative, telling her that giving Barra the award would be "a slap in the face for myself and many others who are actively grieving," Christian told The Detroit News. She says the representative she spoke with was "very compassionate."
The family members weren't the only ones upset over the museum's choice in Barra. Earlier this week, the National Legal and Policy Center, a nonprofit that promotes ethics in public life, sent a similar letter to the museum, asking that it rescind Barra's award. The letter noted Barra had deflected questions from lawmakers during contentious hearings on Capitol Hill that scrutinized the company's response to the fatally flawed part.
Given the acrimony over GM's ongoing handling of the ignition-switch (documents released last week showed the company ordered 500,000 new ignition switches months before alerting federal regulators of the intended recall) – NLPC president Peter Flaherty derided the museum's selection of Barra for the award.
"We believe that Barra should focus on GM's remaining safety problems before traveling around the country to accept awards," he wrote. "NWHM does important work. It is undermined by honoring Barra."