Republican senator caught on mic calling teenage staff 'beautiful girls'
Republican Senator Roger Wicker has been roundly criticised after he was caught in footage calling underage teenagers “beautiful girls”.
The 66-year-old made the comments during Monday’s Senate vote on a temporary funding bill, in which Democrats moved to end a federal government shutdown.
The Mississippi senator was speaking to Senator Cory Booker, who said one Senate page was from one of the most beautiful places in the country, according to a statement from Mr Wicker.
A C-SPAN video recording shows Mr Wicker gesturing towards a group of female pages and saying: “I thought you were going to say this was one of the most beautiful girls. What about these others?”
Senate pages are typically between 16 and 17 years old and work for the government as interns.
Ryan Taylor, a spokesman for Mr Wicker, told the New York Daily News the comment was “meant as a light-hearted jest”.
But the Senator came under fire on social media, with a number of people condemning what they labelled “creepy” behaviour .
One Twitter user, Deb Mochier-Dunn, commented: ”didn’t they notice the million women march outside their office this weekend?” referring to the mass protest that took place in Washington on Sunday,
Another user, Pamela Wallace, said: “Good to know his mind was on the important work at hand ... rating high school girls for hotness.”
The comments come after a number of sexual assault scandals involving senior US politicians.
Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who ran as the Republican nominee in the 2017 United States Senate special election in Alabama, has been accused of sexual misconduct by a number of different women.
One accuser said she was assaulted by the judge when she was 14 and he was 32. Mr Moore lost the Alabama race to Democratic candidate Doug Jones.
In December, Democratic Senator Al Franken resigned following accusations by more than half a dozen women that he had tried to grope or forcibly kiss them.
On Monday, the Senate voted 81-18 to approve the spending bill before it was sent to the House, where members of Congress alsovoted 266-150 toreopen the government.
The bill funds the government for three weeks. In the meantime, negotiations will continue on the issue of immigration and a larger budget bill.
The deal falls short of the Democrats’ initial demand that Republican leaders agree to the rough outlines of a measure that would provide protections for undocumented migrants brought to the US as children – the so-called “dreamers”.
Donald Trump hailed the passing of the short-term spending bill as a “big win” for Republicans.