Michigan rep disappointed GM CEO won't get honor Monday

David Shepardson and Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Washington — A Michigan Republican who is among the co-chairs for a National Women's History Museum awards ceremony next week said she is disappointed that General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra will not be honored Monday.

Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, who chairs the House Administration Committee and is one the chairs for the awards dinner, lauded Barra.

"Despite the hurdles faced by women in a male-dominated culture, Mary Barra, who started as an intern at GM, climbed her way to CEO — a massive feat deserving of acknowledgment and praise," Miller said Thursday. "While I have deep sympathy for those impacted by the ignition switch defect and understand their anger, I believe that Mary Barra, who inherited the problem within a week of assuming the position of CEO, has stepped up to the plate to right this terrible wrong. Instead of making excuses and ignoring the corporate culture that allowed the default to go unaddressed, she took immediate action to tackle the problem head on — ordering the largest recall in the history of the U.S. auto industry."

On Wednesday, GM said Barra would not attend the de Pizan Honors to receive the Katherine Graham Living Legacy Award, following pressure from an advocacy group and relatives of people killed and injured in ignition switch crashes in GM cars.

GM said Barra wanted to ensure there were no distractions for the three other winners.

The museum on Thursday wouldn't directly answer if it asked Barra to withdraw, or if it will give her the award in the future.

"We respect Mary Barra's decision to withdraw from the event and enable the program and recognition of the other honorees to go forward without distraction. We will not be honoring Mrs. Barra at this time," Susan Murphy, a spokeswoman for the group, said in an emailed statement.

On Wednesday, Laura Christian of Maryland, the birth mother of Amber Marie Rose, a 16-year-old who died in 2005 following in a crash tied to the ignition switch defect, insisted she was told by a museum official that the award for Barra was being rescinded. Christian released a letter to congressional co-chairs associated with the award and said the letter was from more than 260 friends and family members of people who were seriously injured or died in crashes allegedly tied to the defect. She asked that they withhold the honor from Barra.

The National Legal & Policy Center also had sent a request to the acting chair of the museum and congressional co-chairs, asking the museum withdraw the award for Barra.

The automaker recalled 2.59 million older Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other small cars in February and March for defective ignition switches that have now been linked to 32 deaths and 35 serious injuries.

Scheduled to receive awards from the organization are Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, and Debbie Sterling, founder and CEO of Goldieblox.