GM's Mary Barra Won't Attend Awards Due to Advocates' Protests

Nov 13, 2014 01:40 PM EST | Jordan Ecarma

Safety advocates and families whose loved ones were killed in General Motors vehicles have pressured CEO Mary Barra into withdrawing from a National Women's History Museum event where she was to have received a prestigious award.

While the organization said Barra is not receiving the award "at this time," it did not specify whether she will receive the honor at a later date or not, the Detroit News reported.

Stepping up as GM's new CEO in January, Barra has since been something of a scapegoat for the company's ignition switch debacle. A 2.59 million-vehicle recall earlier this year involving GM vehicles that could suddenly turn off if the driver's knee bumped the ignition has been related to 32 deaths and 35 major injuries.

Laura Christian of Maryland, the birth mother of a 16-year-old girl killed in 2005 in a since-recalled Chevrolet Cobalt, sent a letter to congressional co-chairs on Wednesday asking that the award be withheld from Barra because of the tragedies.

Calling the award "a slap in the face for myself and many others who are actively grieving," Christian said the letter represented more than 260 friends and family members of people killed or injured in connection with the recall.

"While we recognize that Mrs. Barra is the first woman to be named CEO of an American auto company, her first year in this position is only credited with one record so far: a record number of vehicle safety recalls connected to nearly 32 deaths and thousands of injuries," read the letter.

The award ceremony in Washington would have been Barra's first high-profile public appearance since she testified four times in congressional hearings as part of a federal investigation.

"Out of respect for the National Women's History Museum and the honorees, CEO Mary Barra will not attend the de Pizan Honors next Monday, November 17th," GM said in a statement. "The decision was made to ensure that attendees can focus on recognizing the achievements of American women--past and present."

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