The editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal says he was kidding when he penned an editorial calling for women's right to vote to be repealed, but plenty of people aren't laughing.
Thomas Mitchell has found himself defending his "satirical" look at the differences in the voting patterns of men and women after receiving a "swift and voluble" public reaction to his column on Friday, which was entitled "Time to repeal the 19th amendment?"
"People and candidates for public office should be judged on the basis of their ideas, stance on the issues, character, experience and integrity, not on the basis of age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion or disability," Mitchell wrote. "Therefore, we must repeal the 19th Amendment. Yes, the one granting suffrage to women. Because? Well, women are biased."
Mitchell argued that recent polling showed a "bias" among women towards Democrats and against female candidates. In this year's Nevada race for US Senate, "men favored the attractive former beauty queen Sue Lowden over the graying Harry Reid by 22 points, while women shunned their gender mate, choosing Reid by a 2-point margin," Mitchell wrote. "Which proves women favor Democrats."
It may have all been a tongue-in-cheek argument, but many commentators say there's nothing funny about it -- and it's not clear what Mitchell's point was meant to be.
"If there's a clever insight here, it's hiding well," wrote Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly. "Remember, this guy runs a major newspaper. The mind reels."
John Avarosis at AmericaBlog writes that the Review-Journal "has no women on its editorial board, and that the publication had to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit with a former female editor who was passed over for promotion. All the major decisions at the paper are made by men."
If there are political observers who can't find the humor in Mitchell's argument, it may be because he is echoing a talking point made by some far-right conservatives who weren't joking.
Chief among them is pundit Ann Coulter, who gained attention three years ago with a rare plea to have the vote taken away from herself.
"If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democrat president," Coulter said in a New York Observer interview. "It's kind of a pipe dream, it's a personal fantasy of mine, but I don't think it's going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women."
In a follow-up editorial on Saturday, Mitchell argued that the whole thing had been meant as a trap that readers "swallowed hook, line and sinker, rod and reel, up to the elbow, in a piranha-like feeding frenzy."
Mitchell asserted that most of the arguments made against him were made on the basis of his race and gender -- accusing his accusers of the same sins with which he stands accused.
"The only legitimate argument was that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not a good enough writer to attempt satire," Mitchell concluded.
The notion that the US can be made a more conservative country by eliminating women's right to vote has had some limited support in a few corners of the conservative political world. There's even a Facebook page dedicated to the movement, entitled "Repeal the 19th Amendment!!!"
But the page has only 49 members, a paltry number by Facebook standards, which suggests that, even if the whole thing is a joke, it's not a particularly popular one.