Atlantic County Freeholder John Carman, under continued fire and national scrutiny for posting a Facebook meme asking if the women who marched in Washington on Saturday would be home to cook dinner, relented Thursday and issued an apology.

Carman had declined to apologize Monday, when his Facebook post began circulating, suggesting anyone offended should "lighten up."

He also declined to apologize Tuesday after listening to dozens of men and women from Atlantic County at a board meeting explain why they were offended. Instead, he praised the women in his life as being "strong and confident" enough not to be offended.

The local debate amplified cultural and political fault lines and brought them to the most local political level, with Carman's defenders arguing that the era of political correctness had ended and that people should stop being so sensitive.

The protesters, energized by the Women's March, vowed to make Carman feel the consequences in the next election, echoing national calls for opposition to President Trump to take root in local political races. Carman's post, and the backlash, began to spread nationally. A video of his comments to the women, and of the women walking out of the meeting, went viral.

On Thursday, with the head of the county Republican Party and other Republicans suggesting that an apology would be appropriate, not to mention helpful in his reelection attempt this year, Carman apologized via Facebook.

In a message sent from his iPhone, Carman said: "It's not about the amount of mistakes or the size of mistakes a person makes, it's how a person responds to them. I made an error in judgment with a meme I thought was amusing and harmless. I was wrong.

"It is obvious to me that I have hurt many people, men and women with my insensitive post. For this, I am truly sorry. Believe me this was a lesson well learned. Please judge me by my words and my actions going forward. Again, my sincere apology to those that were offended."

It remains to be seen how far the apology gets Carman.

Some of his supporters seemed let down that Carman had softened his stance. "Now I'm offended u feel u had to apologize!!" said Ernest Langbein, a friend on Facebook. "You're a good man Johnnie."

Earlier Thursday, Michael Suleiman, chairman of the county Democratic Party, said that an apology at this time would be beside the point and that the party was busy recruiting women to run in local races, including Carman's Atlantic County Freeholder district.

"If you're coerced to apologize at this point,  if the county executive and assemblyman are going to force the guy to apologize, what good is it?" Suleiman said.

Later Thursday, the county's Democrats, through their vice chairwoman, issued an official response to Carman's apology.

"There's a big difference between doing the right thing and being shamed into doing the right thing," said Vice Chairwoman Mary Slomine. "While we are glad that Freeholder Carman finally apologized, let's not kid ourselves: he did this kicking and screaming.

"Rest assured that the women of Atlantic County will have the final say on this matter on Election Day."

Carman said Thursday that he meant to apologize Tuesday, but became flustered when the women walked out of the meeting as he was speaking about his own female relatives.