On hot mic, Collins calls duel-invoking congressman ‘huge’ and ‘unattractive’

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine speaks with reporters in Orono in 2015. (Ashley L. Conti/BDN)

A hot microphone caught U.S. Sen. Susan Collins telling a colleague on Tuesday that the Texas congressman who invoked a duel when discussing her health care stance is “huge” and “unattractive.”

Collins later apologized for her candid response to U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Republican who told a radio host on Monday that “female senators from the Northeast” were holding up the Affordable Care Act’s repeal and “if it was a guy from South Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.”

The Maine senator was one of two Republicans to vote against debating a repeal of the health care law on Tuesday. Farenthold’s remark was a reference to the 1804 duel in which Burr killed Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

The hot-mic conversation came after a subcommittee hearing chaired by Collins, when she and Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island discussed frustrations with President Donald Trump’s administration on budgeting.

Collins called its approach to budgeting “irresponsible” and Reed appeared to call Trump “crazy,” then the two pivoted to health care.

“Did you see the one who challenged me to a duel?” Collins asks.

“Trust me: You know why he challenged you to a duel?” the other senator says. “Because you could beat the shit out of him first.”

Collins laughs, then calls Farenthold “huge” and says, “I don’t mean to be unkind, but he’s so unattractive, it’s unbelievable.”

She then references a picture unearthed during Farenthold’s 2010 campaign with him standing in pajamas with ducks on them with a scantily clad model, referring to the model as “a Playboy bunny,” although she worked for an entertainment website.

Collins later issued a statement saying she got a written apology from Farenthold late Tuesday morning, saying “neither weapons nor inappropriate words are the right way to resolve legislative disputes.”

“I accept his apology, and I offer him mine,” she said.

Reed spokesman Chip Unruh said in an email that his boss was “just letting Senator Collins know he’s in her corner.”

“He has said it publicly and said it privately: the Trump Administration is behaving erratically and irresponsibly,” he said. “For the good of the country, the President needs to start focusing on the budget.”

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.