John Hickenlooper criticized after saying women presidential candidates should be asked whether they'd pick a male running mate

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.Charlie Neibergall/AP Images

  • John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor and recently announced 2020 presidential candidate, said he would "of course" choose a female running mate if he became the Democratic nominee. 
  • But Hickenlooper had another question: Why not ask the female candidates whether they'll have a man on the ticket? 
  • The remark was met with ridicule from pundits and reporters and Hickenlooper later said he'd meant the comment as a condemnation of sexism. 

John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor and recently announced 2020 presidential candidate, said he would "of course" choose a woman vice presidential running mate during a Wednesday night town hall. 

But, he added, women candidates should also be asked about gender diversity on their tickets. 

"How come we're not asking, more often, the women, 'Would you be willing to put a man on the ticket?'" he told CNN's Dana Bash. 

The joke elicited a shout of disapproval from the town hall audience and just a few laughs.

Reporters and pundits quickly jumped on the comments, which touched on a charged issue in Democratic politics following Hillary Clinton's 2016 defeat. 

The Denver Post wrote that Colorado's former leader is "known throughout the Centennial State for putting his foot in his mouth" and called his answer "classic form." 

The 67-year-old centrist Democrat, who hasn't broken 1% in national polling, later told CNN that his remark had been misinterpreted. He said he meant to point out that women candidates aren't asked about their future running mates because they're not presumed to be the future nominee. 

"They are never asked that question. Or at least, maybe I have missed it, but women I know feel that is a form of discounting, that they are less likely to win the nomination. That is what I am talking about," Hickenlooper told CNN reporter Dan Merica. "People can take it out of context."

Read more: Beto O'Rourke says he'll likely pick a woman as his vice presidential running mate after being criticized for joking about his wife doing all the parenting

Other 2020 candidates have framed their response to the same question differently. 

Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke recently said he'd prefer to have a woman running mate.

"It's hard for me to think of a reason that I would not do that ... that would be my preference," he replied. But he added, "It would be very difficult not to select a woman, with so many extraordinary women who are running right now." 

Read more: Meet John Hickenlooper, the brewery owner turned governor and a Democratic presidential candidate who could pose a serious challenge to Trump in 2020

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker went further, promising he would have a woman on his ticket.

"We should be a ticket that reflects the diversity of this country - gender diversity, race diversity," Booker said Wednesday on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." "And if I am elected as the nominee, I'm going to make sure there is gender diversity on the ticket."

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