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Presidential candidate John Hickenlooper explains why he went to see an X-rated movie with his mother

John Hickenlooper, the former Democratic governor of Colorado who is running for president, went into great detail on Wednesday evening explaining the time he took his mother to see an X-rated movie at a theater in the 1970s.

The awkward moment started with a question from CNN's Dana Bash during a town hall in Atlanta. She brought up his memoir, in which he talked about seeing a pornographic movie with his mother. Bash then let him have the floor.

The movie, Hickenlooper said, was "Deep Throat" -- the X-rated film that turned into a pop culture phenomenon after its release in 1972.

Hickenlooper said he had left for college and had returned home to visit his mother for Thanksgiving. His father had died when he was 8, and when Hickenlooper left home for college, it was the first time his mother had been alone in years, he said. The gravity of that hit him when he came home for the holiday that year.

"I promised, I called a friend in Philadelphia -- and ... we didn't know what an X-movie was. We thought it was a little naughty, but we didn't think it was that bad," Hickenlooper said. "You've gotta understand, I was 18 years old."

He said he came home and his mother had cooked a huge dinner despite hating to cook. And he was so touched that he invited his mother to accompany him and his friend to see a movie.

"I said, 'I promised Jed that we'd go to the movie theater and see this new movie, you want to come?' And it's an X-movie, and I was sure she wouldn't say no. I made a mistake," Hickenlooper said. "And she said, 'I'd love to go' because she didn't want to be left alone in the house again. So I took my mother to see 'Deep Throat.'"

He admitted his mother was "mortified" at the first scene, and so he told her they should leave, but she said no -- she had paid for a ticket.

"I said repeatedly, 'I think we should leave, I think we would should go.' And my mother was someone who rarely went to a movie. She thought almost every movie would get on TV. Obviously not this one," he said. "When she paid, she was going to stay. And at the end, she knew I was humiliated. And as we drove home and -- you know how the dashboard in the old cars had a kind of green light, and I asked her, I said, 'That was some experience.' "

"And she goes, 'I thought the lighting was very good in the movie.' I thought I saw a little grin in that green light," he added.

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