DENVER — Colorado Republican women called on Democrats to denounce state Rep. Joe Salazar's remarks about rape and guns, but instead he received a vote of confidence.
Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino called Mr. Salazar "a great legislator and person," saying Tuesday his comments had been misconstrued.
Mr. Salazar sparked a national firestorm last Friday during the state's heated debate on new gun control measures, saying that restrictions were needed in part because men could be at risk from fearful women who fire their guns indiscriminately.
At one point, Mr. Salazar said that if women on campus carry guns, they may "feel" they are going to be raped and accidentally shoot an innocent bystander.
He later apologized for his words.
"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," Mr. 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."
Mr. Ferrandino's defense prompted a rebuke from Debbie Brown, executive director of the conservative Colorado Women's Alliance.
"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 Mrs. Brown. "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."
Republican state Reps. Polly Lawrence and Carole Murray issued a statement Tuesday calling for Mr. Ferrandino and Gov. John Hickenlooper to condemn the remarks.
"Questioning a woman's judgment over whether or not she is about to be raped is insensitive and insulting to women everywhere," said Mrs. Lawrence in a statement.
Mr. Salazar's comments exploded on the blogosphere earlier this week, bringing to mind the furor over rape gaffes made in 2012 by Senate candidates Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana. The difference is that they were Republicans, while Mr. Salazar is a Democrat.
A hashtag created on Twitter for messages on the Salazar controversy, #LiberalTips2AvoidRape, on Monday became the most active conversation on the social media site, according to the news website Colorado Peak Politics.
Mr. Salazar made his comments during a debate on a bill to ban concealed-carry permit holders from bringing guns to public university campuses. The bill passed 34-31 with no Republican votes.
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