DENVER–Women Republicans called Tuesday for House Speaker Mark Ferrandino to condemn state Rep. Joe Salazar’s floor remarks on rape and guns, but instead the Democratic leader did the opposite.
Ferrandino came to Salazar’s rescue Tuesday, saying Republican criticism was overblown and calling the Thornton Democrat “a great legislator and person.”
“Whatever his words may have been and however much those words are being taken out of context, he did the right thing to take responsibility,” Ferrandino told the Associated Press. “I was there for the entire debate, and the overall point I understood him to be making is that guns on campus don’t mean you’re more safe.”
The speaker’s defense of Salazar ignited another round of criticism from conservative women. Debbie Brown, executive director of the Colorado Women’s Alliance, called on both Salazar and Ferrandino to apologize for their “offensive remarks.”
“Speaker Ferrandino’s defense of Rep. Joe Salazar’s extreme comments about women’s inability to act rationally when they feel threatened is offensive to women everywhere,” said Brown in a statement. “Women have the ability to assess a threat and act to protect themselves from bodily harm. Colorado’s women deserve better than a House Speaker who doubles down on offensive comments and a representative who undermines women’s ability to protect themselves from danger.”
Kelly Maher of the website Revealing Politics, which first posted the video of Salazar’s floor remarks, shot back with a tweet: “So if @markferrandino thinks the comments are ‘out of context’ are they okay with him if they’re ‘in context?’”
The website Twitchy responded with, “Evidently, ‘empowering women’ by making them powerless is the height of feminism.”
Earlier Tuesday, Republican state Reps. Polly Lawrence (R-Littleton) and Carole Murray (R-Castle Rock), called on Ferrandino and Gov. John Hickenlooper to condemn Salazar’s comments.
During floor debate Friday, Salazar said he supported a bill to ban concealed-carry on public college campuses because he feared that women might “feel” that they are in danger of being raped and shoot at an innocent bystander.
“Because you just don’t know who you’re going to be shooting at,” said Salazar. “And you don’t know if you feel like you’re going to be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop a round at somebody.”
Salazar issued a mea culpa Monday after video of his remarks went viral on the conservative blogosphere. Colorado Peak Politics reported Tuesday that the Salazar gaffe had become the number-one story on Twitter under the hashtag #LiberalTips2AvoidRape.
“I’m sorry if I offended anyone. That was absolutely not my intention,” Salazar said in a statement to Fox affiliate KDVR-TV.
At the same time, he didn’t back down from his position, saying, “We were having a public policy debate on whether or not guns makes people safer on campus. I don’t believe they do.”
Murray called the semi-apology inadequate. “‘I’m sorry if you were offended’ isn’t an apology, it’s a line in the sand,” she said.
Lawrence said Salazar’s comments “[q]uestioning a woman’s judgment over whether or not she is about to be raped is insensitive and insulting to women everywhere.”
“No matter what sort of policy position you’re trying to advance, questioning the rational ability of women to perceive threats around them is something Democrat leaders should condemn,” said Lawrence.