An Oklahoma state senator is refusing to back down over a “misogynistic” sexual joke he made about Vice President Kamala Harris that has sparked a bipartisan backlash and some calls for his resignation.
Sen. Nathan Dahm defended himself on Twitter on Friday, writing he had no plans to be “politically correct” and has been told his jokes “are hilarious.”
He added that the “emotional” responses of his critics were “irrelevant.”
Dahm was speaking to Oklahoma City TV station KTUL-TV about a bill proposing a ban on paper straws when he said, “You can’t use a paper straw for a milkshake but maybe Kamala Harris could because of her vast experience, maybe she would be able to get that accomplished.”
The state lawmaker was elaborating on a news release he had issued Thursday that said paper straws “fall apart and turn to mush quicker than Joe Biden trying to string together a coherent sentence. They collapse like Mitt Romney under the slightest amount of pressure, and even with Kamala Harris…well, never mind.”
The reporter pressed Dahm on the joke, asking why — when having an “adult conversation about deregulation” — the 38-year-old senator would choose to “throw in basically an oral sex implication.”
The senator claimed he was being an “equal opportunist” by mocking Biden and Romney as well and he clarified the Harris joke by saying viewers could “figure out how she got trajection into politics,” by doing their own research, according to KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City.
He was referencing unsubstantiated rumors that Harris had advanced her career by dating influential men who could help her, rather than by her own accomplishments.
House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, a Democrat, called Dahm’s remarks “despicable.”
“This is not the attitude or the feeling of the vast majority of people at the State Capitol,” Virgin said, according to KFOR.
“This is not the attitude or the feeling of the vast majority of people at the State Capitol.”
— Oklahoma House Minority Leader Emily Virgin
State Sen. Jessica Garvin, a Republican, said the issue was not a partisan one and claimed women in leadership positions often face similar unfounded accusations.
“Every single female in that Capitol has a similar story to tell, including myself,” she said, according to KFOR. “We have these accusations made about us all the time, and it’s unfortunate. This is not something that is partisan. This is something that women of leadership positions struggle with — no matter if it’s in politics or not. There’s always some reason women are successful aside from their own merit.”
“We have these accusations made about us all the time. … This is something that women of leadership positions struggle with — no matter if it’s in politics or not.”
— Oklahoma state Sen. Jessica Garvin
Oklahoma state Rep. Ajay Pittman, a Democrat, said she wouldn’t accept an apology from Dahm to her or “Vice President Harris, women or our communities of color.”
“Dahm has made it abundantly clear that he was intentional with his words. … The justification for sexism given by Senator Dahm in and of itself is grounds for censure,” Pittman said.
Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, a Republican, called Dahm’s joke “misogynistic, disrespectful, immature” and said it undermined the “good work of the staff and other members of the Oklahoma Senate. As the leader of the Senate, I hold senators to a high standard of conduct and decorum, and Senator Dahm completely failed to live up to that standard.”
Treat has not said if Dahm will face disciplinary action over the comments, according to KFOR.