‘You can’t call her a slut?’ Rep. Jason Lewis complains about political correctness in unearthed audio

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The Washington Post


Republican Rep. Jason Lewis made bigoted remarks about women on a radio show before his time in office, once wondering why it was not acceptable to call them “sluts,” according to newly unearthed audio released on Thursday.

The recordings, published by CNN, come as Lewis faces reelection in a Minnesota congressional district near Minneapolis that many believe to be in play for Democrats in the midterms.

Some of Lewis’s remarks followed the uproar after conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke, then a Georgetown Law student hoping to testify to Congress about how her health-care plan would not pay for birth control, “a slut” in February 2012.

Lewis spoke out against the outcry on the syndicated show he hosted the next month.

“Well, the thing is, can we call anybody a slut? This is what begs the question,” Lewis said. “But it used to be that women were held to a little bit of a higher standard. 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?”

Lewis also defended Limbaugh and expounded on what he said was the host’s reasoning.

“Now Limbaugh’s reasoning was, 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 and 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,” Lewis said. “Especially if you want somebody to pay for it.”

Still, he admitted that he believed that Limbaugh’s remarks were a “stretch,” an “aspect of entertainment radio,” then went on to wonder why someone couldn’t refer to Madonna “as a slut” without the fear of being sued.

“What did we call those people 30 years ago, 40 years ago, 50 years ago?” he said. “You can’t do that today, it’s too politically incorrect.”

CNN reported that it reviewed 15 months of audio from Lewis’s approximately five years on the air after acquiring the material from Michael Brodkorb, a former Republican Party official in Minnesota who wrote about some of Lewis’s remarks in a February 2016 column for the Star Tribune.

Lewis, who represents a district that The Washington Post has listed as one of the 10 most competitive in the country, through a spokeswoman tried to deflect criticism of his past remarks onto his Democratic opponent, Angie Craig.

“This has 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,” campaign spokeswoman Becky Alery said in a statement.

Lewis’s remarks have long drawn scrutiny. In the run-up to the 2016 election, the Atlantic called him “Minnesota’s mini-Trump,” and noted his history of incendiary remarks on race and gender.

On another show that aired in the months before the 2012 election, according to CNN, Lewis speculated that President Barack Obama was favored by women because some women were “guided by emotion, not reason.”

“To the degree that the Republicans or conservatives or Mitt Romney has an issue with the women, maybe it isn’t Mitt Romney or his positions. Maybe it’s the women,” Lewis said. “We all know that women tend to vote more liberal than men. It is the women who are guided by more emotion than reason. ‘Oh, here we go, stereotyping, stereotyping females once again. What are you doing?’ Well, I’m not running for anything. I’m just making an observation.”

He added that officials should “convince women to come over to the good side. You don’t go over to their side.”

“Jason Lewis’ attitude toward the women of his district and this country is incredibly insulting and beneath any member of the United States Congress,” Fluke told CNN in a statement. “Americans stood with me and resoundingly rejected such uncivil and demeaning attacks from public figures back in 2012. Since then, the brave women of the #MeToo movement have again reminded all of us that disparaging women with insults like ‘slut’ and ‘parasite,’ is an attempt to silence them from speaking up and fighting for comprehensive healthcare they can afford.”

On Thursday, Emily’s List, the political group working to elect Democratic women candidates, quickly seized on Lewis’s remarks.

“Time and again, Jason Lewis has shown us just how little he respects or understands women,” spokeswoman Christina Reynolds said in a statement. “In November, women — and all of our allies — have an opportunity to return the favor by sending him home and replacing him with Angie Craig.”

Craig lost to Lewis by just two percentage points in 2016.

Elise Viebeck contributed to this report. 

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