Corbett and incest: He was kidding

    It’s no surprise that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is getting a media pistol-whipping for remarks comparing gay marriage with incest.

    But I have a different take on the guv’s ill-considered comments to a Harrisburg TV station.

    I  think he may have been trying to make a joke, suggesting it would be ridiculous to compare gay marriage to incest. It was a stupid line, to be sure, and when it fell flat, he didn’t know how to recover. But I think he was lamely trying to mock one inappropriate comment by comparing it to something worse.

    Why? Look at the video (above) of the governor’s interview with WHP’s Sherry Christian.

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    He’s saying that a comparison of gay marriage by a member of his legal team to 12-year-olds marrying was “inappropriate.”

    “It was inappropriate analogy,” Corbett says. “You know, I think a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don’t you?”

    Look at Corbett when he says that. He’s looking at Christian with an expectant “get it?” grin on his face.

    She’s understandably flummoxed by the comment, and doesn’t ask the obvious followup — what on earth do you mean by that? Corbett lets it drop, and he’s suddenly in deep do-do.

    Corbett issued an apology later (full text below) saying he was trying to provide an example of “categories of individuals unable to obtain a marriage license” in Pennsylvania.

    Which just doesn’t make sense. If the point was to provide an example of people who can’t legally marry, why would a “brother and sister” be a sound choice while 12-year-olds is “inappropriate?”

    I talked this through with Corbett’s new spokesman, Harrisburg veteran Jay Pagni, and he couldn’t explain the logic of it either.

    Pagni patiently explained that the governor didn’t mean to offend anyone, that he was simply trying to illustrate a legal point. But when I persisted in asking why, if it was appropriate to use “brother and sister” as an analogy, what was inappropriate about the earlier comparison to 12-year-olds, Pagni said he couldn’t comment.

    I think what Corbett was trying to say in the TV interview was something like, “Look, what my guy said was stupid. If you’re going to say something stupid, why not go all the way and say something really stupid, like comparing gay marriage to brothers and sisters hooking up?”

    But the guv isn’t a comedian and didn’t have a drum roll to punch his line, so it fell into that sickening oh-my-God-what-did-I-just-say void, and he decided to let it lay. Bad choices all around, but I just don’t think he really meant to say gay marriage was like incest.

    So why didn’t he just explain that he was kidding?

    Sometimes in damage control, you decide to just take your lumps and quit while you’re behind. So Corbett issued his apology, repeated it in a video, and probably prayed it would disappear in the weekend news cycle. (I don’t think it will.)

    In the future, Governor, if you’re going to crack wise, practice in front of a mirror first.

    Here’s the apology:

    Governor Corbett Issues Statement in Response to Same-Sex Marriage Comment

    Harrisburg – Gov. Tom Corbett today issued the following statement in response to the airing of a news segment on same-sex marriage.

    “During a recent interview, I was asked to comment on the ruling by Judge Pellegrini that the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts did not have the power to decide the constitutionality of state laws.

    “My words were not intended to offend anyone. If they did, I apologize.

    “I explained that current Pennsylvania statute delineates categories of individuals unable to obtain a marriage license. As an example, I cited siblings as one such category, which is clearly defined in state law. My intent was to provide an example of these categories.

    “The constitutional question is now before a federal court and that is the venue in which same-sex couples wishing to legally marry have standing to intervene and be heard. Same-sex marriage is an important issue and the question of its legal status is one that will be heard and decided upon its merits, with respect and compassion shown to all sides.”

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