DETROIT -- General Motors said Wednesday that CEO Mary Barra will sit out an award ceremony in her honor next week following protests from a group of family and friends of people killed in defective GM vehicles.
Barra was scheduled to be among four honorees at a gala in Washington, D.C., on Monday hosted by the National Women's History Museum. Barra was to receive an award named after former Washington Post President Katharine Graham.
"Out of respect for the National Women's History Museum and the honorees, CEO Mary Barra will not attend the de Pizan Honors," GM said in a statement Wednesday evening.
Earlier Wednesday, a letter sent to six congressional co-chairs of the awards event and signed by friends and family members of victims of crashes involving cars recalled this year with defective ignition switches urged the group to withhold the honor from Barra.
"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," the group wrote in the letter.
The National Legal Policy Center, a nonprofit watchdog group, also urged the museum to withdraw its award.
A museum spokesman said in an e-mail today that the group has no plans to honor Barra "at this time." She said that it could still honor her in the future.
Barra's bio was removed early today from the section of the museum's Web site listing the honorees. On Wednesday, it said the museum was honoring Barra as "GM is driving to become the global industry leader in automotive design and technology, product quality and safety, customer care and business results."
The victims' group letter criticizes Barra's "lack of transparency and accountability" and notes the harsh criticism she faced from congressional panels this spring.
The letter is signed by Laura Christian, the mother of crash victim Amber Marie Rose and a leading critic of GM's handling of the ignition switch recall.
The museum will go ahead with its plan to bestow the award on Barra, The Detroit News reported.
"As the first female CEO of a leading automaker, Mary Barra has shattered the notion that the highest ranks of a traditionally male-dominated industry are reserved for men," the museum said in a statement, according to The News.
GM recalled 2.6 million older-model small cars early this year for a defective ignition switch that has been linked to 32 deaths.