In 1990, wealthy oil magnate Clayton Williams
was the Republican nominee in the election for Governor
. His opponent was State Treasurer Ann Richards
, who had been dogged during the Democrat
ic primary by her own admissions of alcoholism and unanswered questions about her marijuana use
. Fueled by the controversy, as well as bouyed by the millions of dollars Williams had spent from his own personal fortune on advertising, Williams enjoyed a significant lead over Richards in the polls.
Then came March. Some journalists were at Williams' ranch to watch a cattle roping exhibition that was taking place, but Mother Nature had not cooperated. Gray skies and rain delayed the event, and a restless Williams began joking with the reporters about the weather-- one of the few topics that a politician can usually speak freely about. With cameras rolling, a grinning Williams casually let this little beauty slip:
"Well, bad weather is like rape: if it's inevitable, you might as well relax and enjoy it."
I would like to build a house and live in the quietness of the pause that must've followed that remark-- that brief second while everyone's brain temporarily suspends all other operations and devotes its full resources to verifying that their ears had correctly heard and transmitted what was said.
The comment made national news that night, but despite the furor that expectedly followed, unapologetic good old boy Williams didn't have the good sense to disclaim it. (If anything, he reveled in his image as an immature playboy: some months later, he fondly reminisced to journalists about his trips as a young man crossing the border to pick up Mexican prostitutes.) Williams may have been counting on the short memory of voters, figuring that the outrage over his joke would dissipate before the November election. Unfortunately, the comment had a brief but stinging coda a week before the election, when a convicted rapist repeated Williams' line in court during his sentencing.
Richards won the election by only 100,000 votes, having received a record number of votes from women. Williams returned to his corporate duties, never to darken the political scene again.