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N.D. congressman: Women wearing ‘bad-looking white pantsuits’ during Trump speech have a ‘disease’

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.

In what he called an “obsession” with Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election, U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., has suggested women who wear “bad-looking white pantsuits” might have a “disease” after a group of female Democrats wore white during President Donald Trump’s address to Congress.

“I call it a syndrome, or this sort of denial of the outcome of the election,” he said. “It was just a really ugly display ... of denial. It’s time for Hillary’s supporters to get over the outcome of the election.”

Members of the House Democratic Women’s Working Group wore white Tuesday night to support of women’s rights, Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat from Florida and chair of the group, said in a news release. White, the release said, is in reference to the color suffragettes wore when fighting for the right to vote.

Politico cited a Wednesday radio interview in which Cramer said the women were “poorly dressed” to show support for Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee who lost to Trump in November. Cramer was speaking about bipartisan issues when he brought up the women’s attire, according to the report.

“But by the way, did you notice how poorly several of them were dressed as well?” he asked in the interview. “It is a syndrome. There is no question, there is a disease associated with the notion that a bunch of women would wear bad-looking white pantsuits in solidarity with Hillary Clinton to celebrate her loss. You cannot get that weird.”

In the past, Clinton has worn white pantsuits.

 Cramer told the Herald his comments were meant to insult and diminish the women’s actions, referencing times when they would boo, hiss and point their thumbs down during Trump’s speech. He said he didn’t believe the protest was about defending women’s rights, adding he would understand that argument if wearing white had a continuous tradition in Congress.

“To put it on display like that at a joint session of Congress is undignified to say the least,” Cramer said. “It violates the common decency of the chamber.”

Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, along with Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., the only female Congress members from their states, did not wear all-white outfits. Heitkamp said she didn’t mind the gesture as long as what the women were wearing was appropriate for the occasion.

“I think people are entitled to put on what they want to put on that day,” Heitkamp said. “I really don’t have a comment on it.”

Heitkamp said a number of her friends had sent the Politico article to her, but she declined to comment on the remarks.

“I think it just speaks for itself,” she told the Herald.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Congress members can wear what they like and declined to comment on Cramer’s comments, adding he was in Washington to “stay focused on issues and not personalities.”

“That’s really something you should talk to Kevin about,” Hoeven said.

Cramer said what the women in white did would likely not be popular among most North Dakotans. He said he tries to look at the world through “a North Dakota lens.”

“As I tell people, I come from normalville,” he said.

Cramer admitted it may have been insensitive to use the words “syndrome” and “disease.” He noted his comments were not literal, but he said those like the women in white, at the very least, have an obsession with Clinton’s loss and like to play the victim.

“It could have been more artful,” he said. “At the same time, I would say, why are we always so defensive in this country?

“We don’t need our sensitivity to get in the way of even robust dialogue.”

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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