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Congressman jokes that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was molested by Lincoln

Last Updated Sep 20, 2018 8:25 PM EDT

A South Carolina Republican congressman joked at a Thursday debate with his Democratic opponent that 85-year-old Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was "groped" by Abraham Lincoln. 

"Did you hear about this?" Rep. Ralph Norman said at the opening of the debate, according to The Post and Courier. "Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out saying she was groped by Abraham Lincoln."

The line was an apparent reference to the sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who has been nominated by President Trump to the Supreme Court. Christine Blasey Ford, a California academic, has accused Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her at a booze-fueled house party when they were both in high school. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation. 

The congressman's jab prompted "some scattered nervous laughter from the Kiwanis Club of Rock Hill," according to the paper. Norman, a freshman lawmaker who won a special election to his seat in 2017, is currently running for reelection. 

Norman's brief tenure in the House has attracted national attention before. Earlier this year, during a meeting with gun control activists, the congressman placed a loaded pistol on the table. Norman said he did this to show that "guns don't shoot people; people shoot guns." He also said he was "not going to be a Gabby Giffords," the former congresswoman who was shot and nearly killed while meeting with constituents in 2011. 

Archie Parnell, Norman's Democratic opponent in both the special election and in this November's midterm election, is also no stranger to controversy. Unsealed records from his 1973 divorce, which were first reported on by The Post and Courier, showed that he was accused by his then-wife of beating her. Parnell has not denied the allegations, and CBS News does not consider the race to be competitive.