09/24/2012 09:54 am ET Updated Sep 24, 2012

Paul Smith, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman, Takes Heat For Sexist Joke

Paul Smith, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party in Tennessee, might want to rethink his comedic material.

In an otherwise innocuous memo to party members running down the day's agenda for a session last month, Smith decided to include an attempt at humor. Here's the joke, recently provided to the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

Follow for a happy life:

1) It's important to have a woman who helps at home, cooks from time to time, cleans up, and has a job.

2) It's important to have a woman who can make you laugh.

3) It's important to have a woman who you can trust, and doesn't lie to you.

4) It's important to have a woman who is good in bed, and likes to be with you.

5) It's very, very important that these four women do not know each other or you could end up dead like me.

The timing of the memo, dated August 23, was particularly significant due to its proximity to comments made by Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) about "legitimate rape" victims' supposed ability to prevent pregnancy just by willing it. Akin quickly apologized, but his remarks were widely criticized and cast the issues of women's rights and insensitivity into the forefront of national discussion.

Smith told the Times Free Press' Chris Carroll that he had added the joke specifically to mock Akin.

"It was not meant in any way to be a smear," he said in an interview. "I think my intent there was strictly to point out that the guy who made the statements over there [Akin] is a political Neanderthal and politically 'dead,' and if somebody doesn't understand that, they have a lack of depth of understanding."

But Rita Fehring, Democratic Party board member and president of the Greater Chattanooga Democratic Women's Club, suggested there was nothing about the joke to understand, and called Smith a "moron" for attempting to inject levity into a situation that didn't warrant it.

"He claimed that he was trying to make light of the Akin matter," she said. "You know, there's nothing light about rape. Misogyny's not really funny when you're a woman."

Smith has since refused to apologize, claiming that the joke is being mischaracterized and taking issue with his critics for providing the memo to media before approaching him. Other members of the party found it strange that he wouldn't apologize, but didn't support the notion that his botched joke was indicative of underlying sexist views.

Read more from the Chattanooga Times Free Press.



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