Now that her husband, Sen. William L. Scott (R-Va.), is retiring from politics, for the first time in a dozen years Inez Scott "can say what I think. I don't have to be nice to anyone."
During a chat before the opening of the Republican convention that will nominate a candidate who will try to succeed Scott, the normally soft-spoken wife of the one-term Senator from Fairfax launched into a critique of news stories about her husband, especially those that have detailed his many overseas trips at taxpayer expense.
Those articles, Mrs. Scott told the reporter who chronicled Scott's most recent trip, to Lisbon via London, Paris and Geneva, were uniformly unfair and colored with adjectives that held the senator up to ridicule. A series of articles in The Washington Post described the trip made by Scott and several other legislators as delegates to the spring meeting of the Interparliamentary Union in Lisbon.
Mrs. Scott admitted that during her husband's three terms in the House and one in the Senate she has often had the urge to "take off my shoe and hit somebody in the head with it."
She didn't, of course, but she acknowledged that she was terribly upset by the stories and added, "Bill was hurt too, although he would never say so."
Now that she is free of the inhibitions that go with "always having to ask people to vote for my husband," she vented her frustration on the reporter, good naturedly remarking, "I'm starting with you."
In his six years as a member of the House, Scott "never traveled outside the country," she said. His travel as a senator - he has visited 37 countries in 5 1/2 years - was usually connected with concerns of the World Bank of the Interparliamentary Union, she said.
Mrs. Scott, who accompanied her husband on many of those trips, defended the practice of repeated trips by the same lawmakers, saying they developed expertise and rapport with delegates from other nations.
For his part, the senator passed up a chance to criticize news coverage of his activities. At a press conference here yesterday morning. Scott, in answer to a question, said, "I've never been critical of the press. The onus is on the press to be responsible."
Asked if he plans more travel. Scott quickly replied, "Oh, yes," adding, "my wife likes to travel. We hope we can take some trips (after retirement) without reading about them in the press and giving notice to every burglar that we are not at home."
Mrs. Scott said she learned early in life to suppress her feelings when others treated her unfairly. She recalled an incident when she was in the seventh grade to illustrate the point. A cousin, jealous of not being invited to go along on an April Fool's lark, told her father that she had gone wading in a dangerously swift river that was off limits to her.
Instead of telling her father that the story was not true, Mrs. Scott recalls that she waited until she and her cousin were "picking blackberries a few days later." She confronted her cousin and expressed her displeasure by "hitting her with the bucket of berries." With that, she slapped the reporter playfully on the arm and walked off, smiling.