South Carolina GOP Congressman Joke: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was Groped by Abraham Lincoln

A Republican congressman from South Carolina sparked backlash over a joke he made about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that made light of sexual assault, and her age.

Representative Ralph Norman was in a debate with Archie Parnell, his Democratic opponent for South Carolina's 5th District, when he made a joke about the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychologist at Palo Alto University, has accused Kavanaugh of forcing her into a bedroom, groping her, and holding his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream at a high school party in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh denied Ford's allegations.

"I thought I was going to be late. Did y'all hear this latest, late-breaking news from the Kavanaugh hearings?" said Norman at the debate. "Ruth Bader Ginsburg's came out that she was groped by Abraham Lincoln. I thought I was going to have to get back there but we don't."

Bader Ginsburg is 85 years old. Abraham Lincoln was U.S. president from 1861 until his assassination in 1865. Norman's joke received a few laughs in the room.

South Carolina Republican Rep. Ralph Norman: "Did y'all hear the latest late-breaking news on the Kavanaugh hearings? Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out that she was groped by Abraham Lincoln."

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) September 20, 2018

"My opponent apparently thinks sexual assault is a joke. It is not," Parnell wrote on Twitter after the debate. "But I guess that's the best we can expect from someone who pulled a loaded gun on his own constituents."

The gun reference was about Norman pulling out a loaded handgun and laying it on the table during a meeting with constituents in April to make a point about gun safety.

The candidates' debate took place at a Kiwanis club. Kiwanis is a children's charity. It responded to the joke on Twitter.

"Kiwanis clubs exist to help children," it said. "One way to help is to understand candidates' positions on relevant issues; many Kiwanis clubs hold open forums like this for political candidates. Statements such as the one from Rep. Ralph Norman do not reflect The Objects of Kiwanis."

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime died in the Parkland school shooting, also hit back at Norman for his joke about sexual assault.

"Representative Ralph Norman, this is not funny," Guttenberg tweeted. "I once had a daughter but she was murdered in the Parkland school shooting. I used to teach her about how to conduct herself. Honestly, a pathetic man like you is the reason that I needed to worry."

Norman defended himself against the backlash.

"My comments earlier today were meant to add a bit of levity to a very serious debate between me and my Democrat opponent and to point to the circus-like atmosphere that Washington DC has become. People really need to learn to lighten up," Norman wrote on Twitter.

"Clearly my opponent understood it that way since for the next hour we engaged in a substantive discussion about our many differences without mention of my comments.

"Once again, the Democrats and the media have taken an event that was newsworthy for so many substantive reasons and are now only adding more clowns and distractions to the current circus."

He also took aim at his opponent Parnell. In May, The Post and Courier reported that Parnell had brutally beat his wife in 1973, who divorced himin 1974. Parnell said he "regretted every single day" what happened, which he said was "inexcusable," but he did not withdraw from the race.

"Perhaps we should have a debate about your own abuse and harassment of women, Parnell," Norman said on Twitter, in response to criticism of his Bader Ginsburg joke.

Bader Ginsburg did not immediately respond to a request for comment made via the Supreme Court.