The widow of a man killed by a distracted driver, Mary Carol Harsch, introduced herself to Georgia lawmaker Betty Price before entering an elevator with her on Thursday. She wanted to know why Price had voted against legislation that would double the fine for motorists who talk on the phone while they drive.
Price’s answer shocked Harsch.
“It’s a protest because they ignored my bill last year,” said Price, a Republican state representative. “I’m just causing trouble. I’m not philosophically opposed — I’m just mad.”
Price’s comments were caught on video by Harsch’s friend, who recorded the conversation without Price’s knowledge. Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta published the exclusive video Friday.
When asked about her comments by Channel 2 reporter Nicole Carr, Price said she wasn’t aware of the video. At first she wanted to see it, then she brushed off the comment as “commonplace talk among state lawmakers,” Carr reported.
“A lot of people say that. Don’t listen to that,” Price said with a wide smile.
“Well, to a widow that was insulting. You know, she didn’t take that well,” Carr told Price.
“I have complete empathy with her,” Price said. “We’re solving the problem [of distracted drivers] as best we can.”
Harsch told Channel 2 she was hurt by Price’s comments.
“My role in the process was completely insignificant to her,” she said.
Harsch’s husband, John, 59, was riding his bicycle with a cycling training group in April 2016 when he was struck by a car. He died at a hospital, according to the Henry County, Ga., Herald newspaper. The driver, Cleven Gerald Ingram, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor homicide by vehicle last year.
John Harsch was a founding physician at Southeastern Primary Care Specialists, and practiced medicine for more than 25 years, according to his obituary. He was an avid cyclist and soccer player.
His widow told Channel 2 she was disappointed that Price, who has been a state representative since 2015, did not demonstrate the “leadership and the potential and the dedication that’s expected of you by your constituents.”
Price, whose district includes parts of Atlanta’s northern suburbs, is a former anesthesiologist and is married to former U.S. health and human services secretary Tom Price.
It’s not the first time Price has found herself in hot water for her remarks. Earlier this month, Price disparaged Democratic women at a Fulton County GOP breakfast, saying one of the Democratic Party’s successes was “the evolution of their women to have higher testosterone levels than many of their men,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
And in October, she asked if the government could “quarantine” people with HIV during a state House study committee meeting.
“I don’t want to say the quarantine word, but I guess I just said it,” Price told Pascale Wortley, the head of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s HIV Epidemiology Section, according to a video of the meeting.
“Is there an ability, since I would guess that public dollars are expended heavily in prophylaxis and treatment of this condition. So we have a public interest in curtailing the spread. What would you advise or are there any methods legally that we could do that would curtail the spread?” Price asked.
Price later said her comments had been misunderstood, and meant to be “provocative” and “rhetorical” in the larger conversation about preventing the spread of the disease, according to The Post’s Mary Hui and Amy B Wang.