At some point in most people's lives, the wrong thing is said at the wrong moment. The best course is to recognize and acknowledge the mistake and apologize. A sincere apology and genuine remorse can mend most rifts caused by misspeaking.
Or there is the option of going to Twitter and telling people to "lighten up." Republican Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina chose the second option.
In order to bring some levity to the discussion of sexual assault, Norman decided a joke would help. Norman also thought a joke about a President sexually assaulting one of the four female—out of 113 total—Supreme Court justices—which also mocked her age—would be particularly witty.
In front of cameras and constituents at the beginning of a debate with his Democratic opponent, Archie Parnell, Norman decided to open with a joke. He said:
"I thought I was going to be late. Did y’all hear the latest, late-breaking news from the Kavanaugh hearings? Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out that she was groped by Abraham Lincoln. I thought I was going to have to get back there but we don’t."
Watch his remarks here.
The Kiwanis Club International—organizers and hosts of the debate between 5th Congressional District candidates Ralph Norman and Archie Parnell—issued a statement Friday. The civic organization explained their reasons for hosting the debate and their reaction to Norman's comment. Kiwanis International governor Mary Jo Brubaker stated:
"The club was disappointed with Rep. Norman’s joke about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, alleging she had been groped by Abraham Lincoln. The joke was not funny, it was in poor taste, and it absolutely does not reflect the values of our club."
"Video and audio recordings of the debate clearly demonstrate that a very small minority of the audience laughed or clapped at his joke. The audience included club members and their guests, as well as a number of guests invited directly by the two campaigns."
After the video of the debate received national attention, it turned out many people found sexual assault or age jokes about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg unfunny. Most people found any joke about sexual assault distasteful and they let Representative Norman know.
As Norman is up for reelection in November, he sought to clear his name and make amends with those who do not laugh about sexual assault. He posted a three part message placing the blame where he felt it belonged: his opponent, the media, Washington and anyone who did not laugh.
1 of 3: My comments earlier today were meant to add a bit of levity to a very serious debate between me and my Demo… https://t.co/dHLU7TryEG— Ralph Norman (@Ralph Norman)1537479623.0
2 of 3: Clearly my opponent understood it that way since for the next hour we engaged in a substantive discussion a… https://t.co/es678YqSSg— Ralph Norman (@Ralph Norman)1537479639.0
3 of 3: Once again, the Democrats and the media have taken an event that was newsworthy for so many substantive rea… https://t.co/nLCEdzebCQ— Ralph Norman (@Ralph Norman)1537479650.0
Based on reactions to Norman's Twitter declaration, his choice to stand behind his sexual assault joke and not apologize backfired, as the following show.
Women from Norman's district were not mollified by his Twitter posts.
@RalphNorman It's only a light hearted moment of levity if you'rethe one making the comment. Way to poke fun at a… https://t.co/bN2SMAaQVa— Treasaigh (@Treasaigh)1537482232.0
@treasaigh @RalphNorman You left out the part about totally disrespecting a sitting justice on the highest court in the land.— G-Ma Cathy (@G-Ma Cathy)1537494217.0
@treasaigh @RalphNorman Nope. You're right. But I thought I'd mention it so @RalphNorman would know another one o… https://t.co/QLgA0CYaR8— G-Ma Cathy (@G-Ma Cathy)1537528130.0
While others tried to explain why his joke was unfunny and what was wrong with his response.
@RalphNorman I don't ever plan on lightening up about sexual assault. No one should.— Shelley (@Shelley)1537481503.0
@RalphNorman A comment that insults and denigrates others is not levity. It is a defect of character. Every woman a… https://t.co/DULPgt1Xkz— Axel Garcia (@Axel Garcia)1537482661.0
@RalphNorman Alternatively, you could learn that rape isn't a punchline.— The Hoarse Whisperer (@The Hoarse Whisperer)1537548366.0
@RalphNorman Sexual assault as a punchline is not amusing. I am sure if it was a member of your family it would no… https://t.co/XKuMBT1U3x— Bill (@Bill)1537481157.0
@RalphNorman @MaryCaitlinByrd There is nothing funny about sexual assault. That you feel levity is called for shows… https://t.co/2Zu0coQFyF— Mellie (@Mellie)1537482583.0
@RalphNorman Because sexual assault is fodder for hilarious jokes. It’s not.— Molly Jong-Fast (@Molly Jong-Fast)1537549176.0
@RalphNorman If jokes about women being groped is your idea of levity, I think voters now know everything about you that they need to know.— Joe Norris (@Joe Norris)1537482463.0
@RalphNorman Right out of Trump playbook---make an abysmal statement that mocks a victim and justice and blame the… https://t.co/xtqfkmvMXs— Kendall Thiessen (@Kendall Thiessen)1537489153.0
Some tried to explain what message his sexual assault joke and his reaction to people not laughing sent, as well as shared some statistics on sexual assault.
@RalphNorman Be sure to tell your wife, daughters, or granddaughters to lighten up if they ever tell you they've be… https://t.co/zlpOKA9uoQ— NerdPosse (@NerdPosse)1537533687.0
@RalphNorman Have you made this joke to women in your family that have been victims of sexual harassment or assault… https://t.co/AuQzrr799E— 🔴⚫ Jorge E Alonso 🌹 (@🔴⚫ Jorge E Alonso 🌹)1537481034.0
@jedalonso @RalphNorman Or 1 in 3 since most don't report— #PresidentPelosiASAPASAP (@#PresidentPelosiASAPASAP)1537504766.0
Representative Norman has not yet responded further since his Twitter posts.