ALPINE, Texas -- Republican gubernatorial nominee Clayton Williams, who compared sitting through cold, drizzly weather on his West Texas ranch to a woman being raped saying 'if it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it,' Sunday apologized for the remark.
'I feel just terrible about this,' Williams said in a statement released Sunday. 'I had no intention in my heart to hurt anyone, especially those women who have been traumatized by rape. Looking back, I realize it was insensitive and had no place at the campfire or in any setting.'
Williams, who received more than 60 percent of the vote during the GOP primary earlier this month, made the remark Saturday to reporters who had joined him on the ranch for a cattle roundup.
He later said the remark was a 'joke' and not 'a serious statement.'
Williams' comments drew immediate condemnation from his Democratic opponents, who accused him of being insensitive to victims of rape and other violent crimes.
The millionaire rancher and businessman made the comparison to rape after foul weather delayed the start of the annual spring roundup at his ranch near Alpine in West Texas. He added: 'If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.'
Williams was sitting at a campfire for a chuck wagon breakfast with reporters, campaign aides and ranch hands when he made the remark.
Williams and his wife, Modesta, both said later they thought it was unfair for reporters to quiz the candidate on the rape remark because it was intended as a joke.
'This is not a Republican women's club that we're having,' he said. 'It's a working cow camp -- tough world where you get kicked in the testicles if you're not careful. It's a different world.
'You're here in the cow camp. There's barnyard language, and you came to the barn,' Williams said.
The remark comes on the heels of another controversial statement Williams made earlier in the week while in Washington. Williams said he would be uncomfortable running against a woman -- if state Treasurer Ann Richards is the Democratic nominee -- because he grew up in a 'male world.'
'I wouldn't be as comfortable in battling with a woman,' he said. 'I don't have that comfort factor because I've never done that before.'
The campaigns of Attorney General Jim Mattox and Richards, who will compete in an April 10 Democratic runoff for the right to oppose Williams in November, both issued statements critical of the comments Willliams made at his ranch.
'If Clayton Williams had ever worked with victims of violent crimes, as I have, he would know that his remark is totally unacceptable,' Mattox said in Austin. 'I am sorry he said it. I hope he doesn't mean it.'
Richards said the 'sad part of it is that level of ignorance -- not understanding that rape is a crime of violence.'
'Until we have an intolerance of violence, we will not be able to solve crime problems in Texas,' she said.
Marilyn Rickman of Austin, head of the Texas Women's Political Caucus, which has endorsed Richards for governor, called the remark 'totally insensitive in every sense.'
Joyce Gersh, head of the Houston chapter of the National Organization of Women, said Williams' remark indicates he knows little about the crime of rape.
But Virginia Steenson, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, rejected the complaints, saying, 'It's an old joke which we've heard a million times.'
And Beverly Kaufman of Houston, first vice president of the Texas Federation of Republican Women, said it appeared Williams made the comment in jest.
'I'm sure no offense was intended by it, and I'm not offended by it,' she said.
Williams, 58, a West Texas businessman who made his fortune in oil, cattle and telecommunications, spent at least $6 million of his own money on television commercials that boosted him from unknown to runaway favorite in a few months in the gubernatorial primary -- his first bid for public office.