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Tribune Editorial: Sen. Scott Newman tweets his foot into his mouth

Sen. Scott Newman has stirred up a Twitter fire across social media Monday by tweeting about an attempted rape allegation concerning U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The senator, R-Hutchinson, began his tweet Monday, "Even if true, teenagers! Frankly, I don't believe her," and then criticized the recent allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford.

The full tweet read in full "Even if true, teenagers! Frankly, I don't believe her. Almost 40 years and now she self righteously comes forward to save us from a dangerous sex offender. This type of allegation seriously jeopardizes women with a legitimate claim, for who will believe them."

One responding tweet read, "Hello, female high school student here. I would just like to say that the emergence of this whole 'teenage boys should get a pass because they're not mature enough to understand consent' narrative is probably one of the most unsettling things I have ever witnessed."

Fortunately, Newman's Senate office seat is not on the ballot this year. He is in his third term and currently is the Transportation Committee chairman.

Newman's tweet displays a chauvinistic attitude, a lack of tact and a lack of awareness, especially in today's political climate of the #MeToo era.

Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist, has written a letter to a Democratic lawmaker and talked to The Washington Post about her allegation. She said that she was at a teen party in a private home in the Maryland area in 1982 when Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and groped her. Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were both drunk and in a closed-door room with her, she said. When she tried to scream, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth, she told the newspaper.

Ford told the Post, "I thought he might inadvertently kill me. He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing."

Kavanaugh has "categorically and unequivocally" denied the allegations.

Ford was reportedly 15 and Kavanaugh 17 at the time.

They have both been invited to appear Monday before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to testify concerning the allegations.

This is a serious issue. It is now up to the Judiciary Committee to determine the validity of Ford's sexual assault allegations and Kavanaugh's denials.

Newman, who represents Minnesota Senate District 18 covering parts of McLeod, Meeker, Sibley and Wright counties, was overwhelmingly criticized on social media Tuesday. As of midday Tuesday, he had received 74 retweets, 100 likes and nearly 4,000 replies, with the majority being critical.

Newman blamed the accuser in his tweet about Ford's allegations: "I don't believe her," calling Ford "self-righteous" for coming forward. Yet in his August tweet, he apparently believed the female accusing Minnesota Attorney General candidate Keith Ellison. He likened the domestic abuse allegations against Ellison by his ex-girlfriend to those against disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein and shamed news personalities Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose. Newman did not blame any women in those cases.

Newman so far has failed to respond to the Twitter criticism and questions from the media. His spokesperson said Tuesday that Newman was traveling all week and it was unclear when his cellphone service might return.

Interestingly enough, Newman's Sept. 17 tweet is no longer published on his Twitter page.

Many on social media took Newman's tweet to suggest he was excusing attempted rape because the alleged attack just involved teenagers, and thus it was acceptable.

Others criticized Newman for questioning Ford's motive and blaming the messenger.

Newman is not shy and tends to speak out on various policy issues.

A Twitter recommendation for Newman is to climb out of his man cave and engage his brain before tweeting his foot into his mouth in the future.

This editorial is the opinion of the West Central Tribune's Editorial Board of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan.