On Facebook, two prominent Colorado Republican legislators recently made jokes about a sexual assault claim against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and a third representative liked at least one of them.
The comments pertain to "Exclusive Report: Kavanaugh May Have Cheated While Playing 'The Floor Is Lava' as a Child," a story from the Babylon Bee, which describes itself as "your trusted source in Christian news satire." The piece plays off an assertion by Professor Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high-school party more than thirty years ago.
In sharing the item on Saturday, September 15, Colorado House Representative and minority leader Patrick Neville wrote, "At publishing time, new allegations had surfaced that Kavanaugh had utilized the Konami Code to beat Contra on the NES while in college."
Liking this comment was Colorado Representative Kevin Van Winkle.
Colorado Senate majority leader Chris Holbert subsequently chimed in with this attempted witticism: "An anonymous source who may or may not have ever been associated with the Little League has allegedly stated that, at the age of nine, Kavanaugh’s right foot did not touch the base when rounding second."
Neither Neville nor Van Winkle have responded to Westword's outreach at this writing. But Holbert has spoken out in the context of a release from the Colorado Senate Republicans that focuses on a piece by Colorado Public Radio, the first news agency to report about the posts.
"I read the Babylon Bee parody Saturday morning," Holbert is quoted as saying. "It was satire, similar to The Onion, about seven-year-old Kavanaugh’s foot touching the floor while playing a kid’s game called ‘The Floor is Lava.’ I knew nothing about Dr. Ford or what she was alleging until Sunday. To claim that I was making light of those allegations before I knew about them is false."
Holbert added: "Dr. Ford deserves to be heard and respected. The Babylon Bee satire was not about her or the allegations that she has brought forward. To conflate the two is wrong and misleading."
That these gags have surfaced now is particularly ill-timed, and not just because of the ongoing furor over Kavanaugh. Recall that the last session of the Colorado General Assembly was rocked by multiple assertions of sexual harassment by members. Arguably the most explosive of these matters involved Representative Steve Lebsock, a Thornton Democrat accused of sexually harassing at least eleven women, including fellow rep Faith Winter and lobbyist Holly Tarry.
One passage in documents issued this past February by KC Becker, the Colorado House's majority leader, maintained that Lebsock said to one complainant, "Don't you need a fuck buddy? I need a fuck buddy."
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Lebsock was subsequently expelled from the Colorado House as a result of these accusations.
In the wake of this embarrassment and others like it, the Colorado Legislature set out to create new sexual harassment policies intended to prevent such incidents from happening in the future. But a workplace study interim committee put together to tackle this issue has not yet reached consensus on a revised approach, even though its final meeting is scheduled for October 11.
These posts may give legislators something new to discuss.
Update, September 16: This post has been updated to include Senator Chris Holbert's comments.