What he said was crude, rude and inappropriate.
But they were just words — not actions — and that has to be taken into account when doling out his punishment.
That’s why we’re calling for the Ohio Senate to publicly censure state Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima.
During a roast Jan. 23 for a longtime GOP staffer, Huffman acted as the emcee for the private event at the Athletic Club of Columbus. He told a story about an unnamed woman considering a run for office. He then referred to her using a derogatory four-letter term for a part of female anatomy, using a junior high joke of spelling out the first few letters and using words to finish it off.
Was it dumb? Of course. Was it inappropriate? Absolutely. Is it another sign of a pervasive old boys’ club in Columbus? Probably.
What it wasn’t was a fire-able offense. It wasn’t an unwanted sexual advance, like the one that doomed colleague Cliff Hite last year. It wasn’t even targeted at a particular named person, unlike the slurs heaved by state Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, who named names when he described one former colleague as wearing “a tin foil hat.”
Senate President Larry Obhof said Wednesday he’s considering disciplinary action against Huffman but hasn’t announced what yet. For his part, Huffman quickly owned up to the mistake and apologized, especially in light of recent training in the House and Senate on sexual harassment.
We believe the censure — the modern-day humiliation of a morality play, executed on the Senate floor — is the best way to show the seriousness of the mistake without overstating its damage. A censure would permanently stain Huffman’s legacy and follow his political career wherever it takes him. It would hurt his clout in pushing new ideas, such as his push for a congressional redistricting plan.
It wouldn’t necessarily affect his committee assignments, which includes education; government oversight and reform; health, human services and Medicaid; judiciary, public utilities and rules and reference. And it wouldn’t silence the vote of residents in this part of Ohio, who deserve to have a vote cast on their behalf on whatever business comes before the Senate.
Calls for Huffman to resign seem to mostly be partisan attacks thus far, with shoddy arguments that create a false equivalency between what Huffman admitted to saying and the truly vile acts of men committing serial sexual assaults.
To be clear, Huffman’s statement happened outside the work environment, at a roast. If you’re not familiar with these, they’re rowdy gatherings where people hurl insults around in the name of comedy. Apparently Lima’s senator gets invited to these for his reputation for quick wit and general comedy.
Should he be fired over a bad joke, though, told in a private setting loaded with bad jokes? Absolutely not.
There are real problems with men overstepping their bounds and becoming sexually aggressive. The entire #metoo movement shows women who’ve legitimately been wronged by men in a position of power.
It undoubtedly plays out in the state government. We must strive for equality for both genders, but we shouldn’t do it at the expense of common sense by punishing dumb jokes in the same way you would vile actions.