GOP lawmaker once belittled sexual harassment: 'How traumatizing was it?'

GOP lawmaker once belittled sexual harassment: 'How traumatizing was it?'
© Greg Nash

Rep. Jason LewisJason Mark LewisMinnesota New Members 2019 Overnight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — Medicaid expansion gets extra boost from governors' races | Utah's expansion to begin April 1 | GOP lawmaker blames McCain for Dems winning House Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump's Armistice Day trip marked by controversy | US ends aerial refueling to Saudi coalition in Yemen | Analysts identify undeclared North Korean missile bases MORE (R-Minn.), a top Democratic target in this fall's midterms, once mocked female victims of sexual misconduct on his radio show in 2012, before he became a congressman, according to a new report by CNN's KFile.

Lewis made the statements when discussing sexual harassment allegations against then-Republican presidential nominee Herman Cain from his time as president of the National Restaurant Association. Cain denied the allegations, although two women did receive settlements after accusing him of sexual harassment.

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"I don't want to be callous here, but how traumatizing was it?" Lewis asked in a segment on his radio show unearthed by KFile.

"How many women at some point in their life have a man come on to them, place their hand on their shoulder or maybe even their thigh, kiss them, and they would rather not have it happen, but is that really something that's going to be seared in your memory that you'll need therapy for?" he said.

"You'll never get over? It was the most traumatizing experience? Come on! She wasn't raped," Lewis added, using a mocking voice imitating a distraught woman.

Lewis also slammed sexual harassment laws as violations of free speech and said he did not think offensive remarks or jokes about or to women required government regulation. 

Lewis first won a seat in Congress in 2016, beating Democrat Angie Craig by about 2 points.

The two are in a rematch this year, and Craig is now the favorite according to The Cook Political Report, which rates the race as “Lean Democratic.”

In response to a request for comment from The Hill, Lewis's campaign flipped the story to Craig, arguing the comments were "years old."

“Democrats have become increasingly alarmed that radical movement candidate Angie Craig is once again failing in the race for MN-02, so we're returning to the land of smears by pointing to years old comments from talk radio that have been litigated over, and over, (and over!) again," Lewis Campaign Manager Becky Alery said in a statement to The Hill 

"In fact, $8 million dollars was spent on the old talk radio comments in 2016, but here we go again with bottom feeders who will do anything to help the left-wing cause!” 

Lewis then sought to tie Craig to Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenMinnesota New Members 2019 Meet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time Gillibrand sidesteps question on possible Clinton 2020 run MORE, the Minnesota Democratic senator who resigned under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations earlier this year, and Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonMinnesota New Members 2019 White candidates are never asked how they win minority-majority districts, says first Muslim congresswoman-elect Ellison resigns from DNC after winning Minnesota attorney general race MORE (D-Minn.), who has been accused by a former girlfriend of emotional and physical abuse.

“It’s a lot more fun than dealing with weak candidate Craig who has refused to take any principled stances on any issue as she campaigned with Al Franken and Keith Ellison while pretending to be everything to everyone in this midwestern swing district,” Alery said.

 

A series of controversial comments made by Lewis during his career as a radio show host have become public in recent months. Several of them have been reported by CNN's KFile.

In July, it reported comments Lewis made on his show about how black people have an "entitlement mentality" and are more likely to be violent at social gatherings.

"You simply can't say the same thing about other groups. But when there is a festival, a gathering, call it what you will — June ninth, Juneteenth or urban weekend in Miami Beach or Myrtle Beach and Indianapolis. When there is a predominantly black festival, there's trouble," he said in an August 2012 broadcast.

In a February 2012 broadcast first reported by KFile, Lewis asked why men can't use the word "slut" to refer to some women.

"Does a woman now have the right to behave — and I know there's a double standard between the way men chase women and running and running around — you know, I'm not going to get there, but you know what I'm talking about. 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?"

This story was updated at 12:55 p.m.