Published 4:18 p.m. 09.18.2018 | Updated 11:51 a.m. 09.19.2018
Two top Republican leaders in the statehouse made jokes on social media about the circumstances surrounding the sexual assault allegation facing Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh — with one leader pushing back against the report the next day.
Update: Colorado Democrats have called for harassment and diversity training, you can read that story here.
In a Facebook post dated Saturday, Sept. 15, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville shared a link to a story from the Babylon Bee, a Christian news satire website, with the headline “Exclusive Report: Kavanaugh May Have Cheated While Playing ‘The Floor Is Lava’ As A Child.“
Neville added a comment that was from the satirical article: “At publishing time, new allegations had surfaced that Kavanaugh had utilized the Konami Code to beat Contra on the NES while in college.”
Republican Rep. Kevin Van Winkle liked Neville’s post, so did Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, who responded:
“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.”
A third Republican, Rep. Shane Sandridge wrote, “I heard he was a habitual and chronic cheater at Duck, Duck, Goose when in kindergarten. Therefore, I question if he has any moral fiber left.”
Following the publishing of this story, on Wednesday Sept. 19, Holbert objected to his joke being associated in any way with allegations of sexual misconduct that have emerged against Kavanaugh.
“I read the Babylon Bee parody Saturday morning,” he wrote in a statement released by the Senate Majority Press Office. “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 that he believes Kavanaugh’s accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, deserves to be heard and respected.
The satirical story from the Babylon Bee was written the same day as details of the allegations against Kavanaugh were first published in The New Yorker magazine and then in other news outlets across the country, including The Denver Post. Republicans on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee also circulated a letter the same day The New Yorker story appeared from 65 women who knew Kavanaugh in high school saying he has “always treated women with decency and respect.”
Kavanaugh’s accuser alleges that he groped her, covered her mouth and tried to remove her clothes at a high school party more than three decades ago. Kavanaugh denies the allegation. The Senate Judiciary Committee has asked to hear from both Ford and Kavanaugh before taking a vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It’s disappointing that we would see representatives for the public come out and trivialize survivors’ experiences,” said Jolene Cardenas a spokesman for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “It is disappointing to see any mockery made of the upcoming investigation. That is very disappointing and very telling about how they are going to handle any survivor’s story throughout Colorado.”
Nationally, many Republicans question the timing of the allegation against Kavanaugh and feel it’s a Democratic effort to try to delay the process and block his confirmation.
“You don’t wait until the hearing is over and then all of a sudden bring it up,” said President Donald Trump at a press conference on Tuesday.
The Colorado statehouse is in the midst of its own #MeToo moment after sexual harassment allegations against a handful of lawmakers from more than a dozen people were investigated and found credible in the last legislative session. Former Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock was expelled from the legislature, Colorado’s first expulsion in 103 years.
Lawmakers from across the political spectrum weren’t happy with the process in place for handling misconduct allegations at the state capitol. Neville and Holbert along with other legislative leaders will decide later this fall how to move forward with changes to the workplace harassment policy aimed at making it more straightforward and less partisan.
Editor's Note: This story was updated to clarify that the comment added to share the Babylon Bee article was a direct quote from the satire and when it published, as well as to include a statement released by Colorado Senate Republicans.