A supporter of U.S. Rep. Christopher H. Smith staffing a Republican political table at a public festival told a woman asking about the 16-term congressman’s stance on reproductive rights to keep "an aspirin between your knees,’’ according to a video taken at the event.
The incident happened in Hamilton on Sept. 9. during the town’s SeptemberFest celebration, according to activist and Rutgers student Eva Grote.
Grote, 20, is seen in the video approaching a table that has a Chris Smith, R-NJ, re-election sign and a GOP elephant icon, where she has a brief interaction with at least two men who are unidentified.
Grote, who is distributing the video on YouTube and other online venues, in the video asks when Smith was to appear at the event because she wanted to ask the congressman about his stance on reproductive rights.
“Have you ever heard about keeping an aspirin between your knees?’’ one of the men says. “Works every time it's tried.’’
Grote said she was stunned.
“I couldn’t believe it,’’ she said. “I was thinking ‘doesn’t this guy know we’re filming this?' "
Grote said she approached the table believing it was Smith’s campaign base at the festival. She said she and about five members of her improvisational pro-woman group, FlashFem, waited for more than two hours for the congressman to arrive.
Jeff Sagnip, spokesman for Smith, said the men in the video were not involved with the congressman nor his re-election campaign, and he vehemently denounced the comment.
“Whoever it is was not and is not authorized to speak on behalf of Chris Smith,” Sagnip said. “The comments referencing aspirin are absolutely absurd.”
Grote said she did not hold Smith personally responsible for the comments of every one of his supporters.
"I think the legislation that Chris Smith supports helps legitimize the sentiments of that guy behind the table,'' Grote said. "I don't think Chris Smith goes around telling women to keep an aspirin between their legs, but the legislation he supports lends legitimacy for those kinds of statements.''
Smith sponsored the bill.
Critics have said the bill, which passed the House but never came up for a vote in the Senate, was a deliberate attempt to change the definition of rape by adding the qualifier "forcible.”
That phrase was ultimately stricken from the final version of the bill.
Smith represents New Jersey's 4th Congressional district, which includes Manalapan, Freehold, Middletown, Holmdel, Colts Neck and Howell, as well as portions of Ocean, Mercer and Burlington counties. He is opposed in the upcoming election by Democrat Brian Froelich.