Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel on Thursday tore into a Democratic congressman for a “disgusting” and “offensive” joke made at White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway's expense.
Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, had a day earlier joked at the Washington Press Club Foundation congressional dinner about a controversial photo showing Conway kneeling on a White House couch during a gathering in the Oval Office. Though it later emerged Conway was simply trying to find a good spot to take a picture, critics said she wasn’t showing proper respect for the Oval Office.
Richmond went a step further – and perhaps too far.
“But I really just want to know what was going on there, because, I won't tell anybody,” Richmond said. “And you can just explain to me that — that circumstance, because she really looked kind of familiar there in that position there. But don't answer. And I don't want you to refer back to the '90s.”
Richmond later denied implying anything inappropriate, but his remark about the '90s was seen by many as a reference to former President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky, which had briefly been mentioned by the prior speaker, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.
The attempted joke was quickly panned by many, including Romney McDaniel.
Don’t “clarify,” @RepRichmond - apologize. I’d suggest using Women's History Month to lift us up instead of knocking us down. 3/3— Ronna RomneyMcDaniel (@RRMGOP) March 2, 2017
“.@RepRichmond, you may think this is funny, but it’s not,” she wrote in a series of tweets on Thursday. “It’s disgusting & offensive. A snarky joke for you is just a reminder of the demeaning comments women hear every single day. And trust me, it happens to all women. Don’t ‘clarify,’ @RepRichmond - apologize. I’d suggest using Women’s History Month to lift us up instead of knocking us down.”
The Louisiana GOP asked Democrats in the state to join them in condemning Richmond’s comment.
“Using inappropriate sexual innuendos to demean women is sexism at its worse,” a statement said. "Given that March is Women’s History Month, Congressman Richmond’s remarks about the first woman to successfully manage a U.S. presidential campaign are especially disgusting.”
Richmond hadn’t apologized as of Thursday afternoon, but he tried to clarify his "familiar" remark in a statement to The Washington Post.
"Since some people have interpreted my joke to mean something that it didn’t I think it is important to clarify what I meant,” Richmond said. “Last night was night of levity. Where I grew up saying that someone is looking or acting ‘familiar’ simply means that they are behaving too comfortably.”