Rep. Cedric L. Richmond on Sunday night apologized for a joke he made at a media dinner about White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, who stirred controversy when a photo showed her kneeling on a sofa in the Oval Office as she took a picture of a group gathered there for a meeting with President Trump.
Richmond’s joke, delivered at a Wednesday night awards dinner at which lawmakers of both parties delivered funny monologues, was interpreted by many as having sexual overtones, although the Louisiana Democrat insisted on Thursday morning that that wasn’t his meaning. The clamor kept up on social media, and on Sunday, Richmond publicly apologized to Conway.
“After a discussion with people I know and trust I understand the way my remarks have been received by many,” Richmond said in a statement. “I have consistently been a champion for women and women’s issues, and because of that the last thing I would want to ever do is utter words that would hurt or demean them. I apologize to Kellyanne Conway and everyone who has found my comments to be offensive.”
Richmond’s words — apparently delivered off the cuff — were a bit convoluted. The comedy gone wrong started when, early in the program, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) had joked about the Conway-on-the-sofa controversy that “a whole lot worse” had happened on that couch in the 1990s, an apparent reference to then-President Bill Clinton, who had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Richmond followed the South Carolina Republican, and apparently ad-libbed: “Tim, you kind of opened the door. 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 next morning, Richmond said that he only meant Conway was “behaving too comfortably” in what should have been a formal setting — a meeting with Trump and the presidents of black colleges.
On Sunday, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about his comments, which he labeled “sexist” and “disgusting.”
Pelosi seemed unaware of the remarks. “I wasn’t at the dinner,” she said. “I’m just finding out about this, but the fact is I’m still in a sort of a state of ‘What is going on here?’”