Sen. Collins caught on hot mic swiping back at ‘unattractive’ congressman’s duel challenge

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas (Photos: J. Scott Applewhite/AP, Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A hot mic captured a colorful conversation between Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Jack Reed, D-R.I., in which the two discuss the fighting prowess and physical attractiveness of Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas.

After a meeting of the Senate Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies ended, the audio continued streaming. The subcommittee’s website broadcast the exchange between Collins, the subcommittee chair, and Reed, the ranking member.

“Did you see the one who challenged me to a duel?” Collins said amusedly, referring to tough talk from Farenthold the day before.

“I know,” Reed replied. “Trust me. You know why he challenged you to a duel? Because you could beat the s*** out of him.”

Both laughed before Collins set her sights on Farenthold’s appearance: “He’s huge … I don’t mean to be unkind. He’s so unattractive, it’s unbelievable.”

“I know,” Reed agreed.

“Did you see the picture of him in his pajamas next to this bunny, Playboy bunny?” Collins asked, a reference to an infamous photo of Farenthold, clad in a duck-print onesie, sidled up to a woman dressed in lingerie.


Shortly after Collins’ comments began to circulate Tuesday, the archival audio of the meeting was edited to exclude the back-and-forth.

A spokeswoman for Farenthold declined to comment on the exchange, but Collins later said the Texas lawmaker had apologized to her personally for a quip about challenging her to a duel.

“Neither weapons nor inappropriate words are the right way to resolve legislative disputes,” Collins said in a statement. “I received a handwritten apology from Rep. Farenthold late this morning. I accept his apology, and I offer him mine.”

A spokesman for Reed said the senator “was just letting Sen. Collins know he’s in her corner.”

In an interview Monday, Farenthold had blamed “some female senators from the Northeast” for the rocky legislative efforts to overhaul health care. Three Republican women — Collins and Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Lisa Murkoswki, R-Alaska — said they would oppose a so-called clean Obamacare repeal, under which lawmakers would have two years to figure out replacing the health care policy.

Farenthold went on to reference the 1804 duel in which Vice President Aaron Burr killed founding Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.

“Some of the people that are opposed to this — there are some female senators from the Northeast — if it was a guy from South Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style,” Farenthold said.

He later defended the eyebrow-raising comment, describing it as “clearly tongue-in-cheek.”

In response to Farenthold, Collins joked to reporters, “As far as I know, dueling is illegal in every state.”

Collins opposes bringing the current Republican health care bill to the floor. Senate Republican leadership can lose only one more GOP lawmaker in the high-stakes procedural vote set to take place later Tuesday.

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