A Republican senator is facing backlash after a video recording caught him making a comment about Senate pages. During Monday's Senate vote to end the government shutdown with a temporary funding bill, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker described teenage pages as "beautiful girls" — a comment that social media users have condemned as "creepy."
One Twitter user called for Wicker to be "held accountable" for his words. "It is creepy behavior that mirrors the predatory behavior of Roy Moore and Donald Trump.
#TimesUp," user @SujOfficial tweeted.
Wicker reportedly made the comment during an exchange with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. According to a statement issued by Wicker's spokesman, Ryan Taylor, Booker had pointed out that one of the Senate pages was from one of the most beautiful places in the United States. A C-Span video recording shows Wicker subsequently gesturing at a group of female pages and responding, "I thought you were going to say this was one of the most beautiful girls. What about these others?" as he gestured toward them.
In the recording, Booker appeared to laugh at Wicker's comment, but it's unclear what he said in response. Social media users do not appear to be laughing, however. Senate pages are typically high school students — around 16 or 17 years old — who spend a semester interning on Capitol Hill. In his statement, however, Taylor argued that Wicker's comment was been "meant as a light-hearted jest."
Whether or not the comment was made in jest, Wicker is likely familiar with the inner workings of Congress. In light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement, it shouldn't surprise Wicker too much that his comment triggered backlash. But Wicker has nonetheless been in Congress a long time; in fact, his first job on the Hill was in 1967, when he served as a Congressional page himself for Democratic Rep. Jamie L. Whitten. According to Roll Call, Whitten retired in 1994, at which point Wicker successfully ran to succeed him, but as a Republican.
In the decades that Wicker has spent in Congress, he has served both in the House and the Senate. He has a member of the House Appropriations Committee, and until last year chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He has been a Mississippi senator since 2007, but this year, he may be facing a challenge for his seat from the far-right wing of the GOP if Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel chooses to launch a Senate bid.
The Washington Post reported that Wicker has Donald Trump's support, but the upcoming Mississippi Senate election could play out like Roy Moore's loss to Doug Jones in Alabama after winning a close GOP primary. Moore faced many allegations of sexual misconduct — as does Trump — but both men have denied the allegations made against them.
Moore wasn't the only prominent lawmaker to face allegations of sexual misconduct in recent months, and Wicker is not the only one to be drawn into a controversy due to questionable comments. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken resigned back in December following sexual misconduct allegations. Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Meehan responded to allegations of sexual harassment made by an aide by describing her as his "soulmate." Arizona State Rep. Don Shooter appeared to make light of the #MeToo movement earlier this month while delivering a floor speech during a harassment and discrimination training.
Some Twitter users called on Wicker to resign following his "beautiful girls" comment, but also suggested that his Republican colleagues in the Senate would not try to make him do so. In the meantime, progressives are already talking about flipping Wicker's Senate seat.