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Rep. Cedric Richmond made an awkward joke about Kellyanne Conway, but he says it wasn’t meant to be sexual

At the Washington Press Club Foundation Dinner, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) references a recent photo of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. (Video: C-SPAN, Photo: AFP/Getty/C-SPAN)

At a media dinner Wednesday night where members of Congress gave joke-filled monologues, Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.) illustrated one of the rules of comedy: leave the ad-libbing to the professionals.

Richmond, who was one of the headliners at Wednesday’s Washington Press Club Foundation’s annual awards dinner, on Thursday clarified what he meant in an apparently off-script joke about White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, who was photographed kneeling on a sofa in the Oval Office this week.

Earlier in the program, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) had joked that “a whole lot worse” had happened on that sofa in the 1990s, an apparent reference to former president Bill Clinton, who carried on an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Richmond, who followed the South Carolina Republican, picked up the thread in his comedy routine. Here’s the full “joke”: “Tim, you kind of opened the door,” he said. “I really just want to know what was going on there, because, you know, I won’t tell anybody. And you can just explain to me that circumstance — because she really looked kind of familiar in that position there. Don’t answer — and I don’t want you to refer back to the 1990s.”

The Fix: What not to say about a woman, let alone one of the most powerful in Washington

Not much reaction from the crowd, since the bit was convoluted, leaving some people confused. But it seemed to some in the audience that he was making a reference to a sexual act.

On Thursday, Richmond insisted that there was no such intention behind his remarks. “Since some people have interpreted my joke to mean something that it didn’t I think it is important to clarify what I meant, ” he said in a statement. “Where I grew up saying that someone is looking or acting ‘familiar’ simply means that they are behaving too comfortably.”

He said the joke was simply meant to highlight Conway’s informal behavior in a formal setting — the picture was taken during President Trump’s meeting with the leaders of black colleges.

“I decided to use that joke due to the large social media backlash over her inappropriate posture considering there were more than 60 HBCU Presidents in the room,” Richmond said in the statement.

President Trump signed an executive order on historically black colleges and universities at the White House on Feb. 28. (Video: Reuters)