State Politics

Gov. McMaster’s ‘joke’ about women jumping into pool raises eyebrows

Sheriffs gathered this week at S.C. governor’s mansion
Sheriffs gathered this week at S.C. governor’s mansion Provided photograph

A “joke” by Gov. Henry McMaster at a recent gathering at the executive mansion about offering a woman money if she would jump in the swimming pool has landed the governor in political hot water.

State Democratic Party chair Jaime Harrison called the comment “sexist,” saying it is similar to portraying women as sex objects in wet T-shirt contests.

“Here’s a man who’s succeeding the first woman governor of South Carolina. It’s totally disrespectful, totally uncalled for. He needs to apologize to the mothers, daughters and grandmothers in this state,” Harrison said. “He’s the governor – not the coach of some basketball team.”

The comment, which drew laughter came during a tour the governor led for a group of sheriffs, some of whom were there with their wives. Some of those present wondered if the governor crossed a line, according to multiple sources.

According to witnesses, McMaster told the group that he would give $100 to anyone who jumped in the mansion pool, then added he’d give an additional $100 if a female jumped in the pool with her clothes on.

One guest said he thought McMaster probably just spontaneously blurted out the comment about women. “Probably 20 years ago, nobody would have thought anything of that, but these days, people don’t make that kind of joke,” the guest said.

Catherine Templeton of Charleston, one of McMaster’s rivals in next year’s Republican gubernatorial primary, said, “I’m sure Henry’s actions speak for themselves without my commentary.”

McMaster’s spokesman, Brian Symmes, said Friday, “It’s no surprise in today’s climate that a lighthearted joke, taken out of context, is being used to score cheap political points. But to selfishly sully an event that the governor and First Lady hosted to thank our state law enforcement leaders for personal gain is absolutely offensive.”

The meeting was a get-together for the new governor and members of the S.C. Sheriffs’ Association.

After McMaster made his joke, someone in the crowd called out that if the female was good-looking, he’d give her $300, the guest said.

No one who witnessed the event wanted to be identified because they were governor’s guests at the mansion.

The topic of sexism, in more extreme forms than the governor’s joke, has been in the news of late.

Conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly was fired by Fox News after a string of lawsuits alleging sexual harassment. And President Trump before his election was in the news for bragging about groping women.