A Republican congressman is under fire over a recently discovered radio segment in which he disparaged women voters and asked why it was inappropriate to call them “sluts”.
Representative Jason Lewis, a Republican from Minnesota who has been described as a “mini Trump”, made the controversial comments on the syndicated radio show he hosted from 2009 to 2014.
“It used to be that women were held to a little bit of a higher standard,” he said on the “Jason Lewis Show,” in 2012, according to audio obtained by CNN. “We required modesty from women. Now, are we beyond those days where a woman can behave as a slut, but you can’t call her a slut?”
The comments came after similarly polarising radio host Rush Limbaugh called a young woman a “slut” for testifying to Congress that insurance plans should cover birth control.
Mr Lewis defended his fellow radio host on his show, saying: “Look, if you’re demanding that the taxpayers pay for your contraception, you must use a lot of them and therefore, ergo, you’re very sexually active.”
“In the old days, what we used to call people who were in college or even graduate school who were sexually active, we called them sluts,” he added.
In other segments, Mr Lewis claimed women voted based on emotion, rather than reason, and suggested that women who vote based on access to birth control “have no cognitive function whatsoever”.
Mr Lewis’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. His campaign manager, Becky Alery, told CNN that the comments had “all been litigated before, and as Congressman Lewis has said time and time again, it was his job to be provocative while on the radio”.
Mr Lewis is running for re-election this November against Democrat Angie Craig, who he narrowly defeated in 2016. The race is considered a toss-up by pollsters, and Democrats are hoping to flip the district in the midterms.
If Rep. Jason Lewis is pissed he can’t call women sluts anymore, here’s something you can do. @emilyslist has endorsed his opponent, @AngieCraigMN. Donate to help her win her election & kick this sexist out of office: https://t.co/AClPWnAYdj the year is 2018, folks.— Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) July 18, 2018
Several progressive groups used the opportunity to advocate for Ms Craig, a former business executive running on a platform of expanding economic opportunities.
“Time and again, Jason Lewis has shown us just how little he respects or understands women,” said Christina Reynolds of women’s political organisation EMILY’s List. ”In November, women – and all of our allies – have an opportunity to return the favour by sending him home and replacing him with Angie Craig, a qualified woman who will respect all of her constituents.”
Ms Craig responded with a statement of her own, saying she was “disappointed” by Mr Lewis’s remarks.
“Our leaders are role models for our kids and must hold themselves to that standard,” she tweeted. “In Congress, I’ll fight like hell so women have the opportunities they deserve and all families can thrive.”
Asked about his previous comments by reporters for CBS News, Mr Lewis laughed and claimed they were being taken out of context.
“If that’s all they got this cycle, I’m afraid they won’t have much,” he said.