SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's Senate president has issued a public apology for calling on a female lawmaker in front of a crowd and asking which of her colleagues she'd like to date.
State Sen. Deidre Henderson said the all-male leaders of the Senate were on stage during a fundraising breakfast at a Salt Lake City hotel Tuesday, answering submitted questions from the audience of several hundred people.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser called on Henderson to come up and answer a question. Referring to the senators on stage, Niederhauser asked Henderson which of those lawmakers she would pick "if this were a dating game."
Henderson said she was stunned and expected to answer a policy question.
The newly elected Republican lawmaker from Provo said she brushed it off by asking why they were asking the question and made a comment about all of the senators being winners.
Henderson said Niederhauser, a Republican from Sandy, was trying to make a joke, but "it wasn't very funny."
"It was a dumb question," she said Wednesday.
She said she thinks the Senate president was caught off guard.
"He meant no harm. He's a good man," she said. "And I respect him, and I've always felt that he respects me."
She says Niederhauser apologized after the breakfast and she accepts the apology.
"It was an improper, on-the-fly ... probably, a stupid question," Niederhauser said Wednesday.
He said he wasn't thinking and "probably should have crumpled the question up and moved on."
Niederhauser also issued an apology Tuesday on an official Senate blog, calling his question inappropriate. "It was all meant in fun, but reflected stereotypes that should have no part in our attitudes or discussions. I also embarrassed a respected colleague. That was wrong," he wrote.
The comments do not reflect the Senate or the way Niederhauser wants it run, he said.
Henderson said she thinks there is a broader conversation to be had on the topic.
"There's not as many Republican women involved in Utah politics at higher levels. These are very good men with very good intentions, but I think that there's an evolution that is taking place, and that's good," she said.
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