Audio has emerged of a Republican congressman complaining about not being able to call women "sluts"
Minnesota Rep. Jason Lewis can be heard lamenting that it’s no longer appropriate to call women “sluts” in recently resurfaced audio from a 2012 radio spot.
Lewis, a Republican congressman currently running for reelection in Minnesota’s 2nd District, formerly hosted the nationally syndicated radio program “The Jason Lewis Show.” CNN’s KFile obtained raw audio from the show after requesting it from Michael Brodkorb, the former deputy chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, who wrote about some of Lewis’ comments in a 2016 column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
In a March 2012 episode, Lewis discussed the controversy that arose from radio host Rush Limbaugh calling Georgetown University graduate student Sandra Fluke the sexist slur after she testified before a Democratic congressional group to say that religious institutions should cover the cost of birth control.
“Well, the thing is, can we call anybody a slut? This is what begs the question,” Lewis said on the show, according to audio published by CNN. “Take this woman out of it, take Rush out of it for a moment. 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?”
He went on to ask if we have “really got to the point where you can’t refer to Madonna as a slut without being sued,” citing the pop star’s “series of lovers” and “prostitute-like outfits.”
Lewis’ campaign did not immediately return TIME’s request for comment. In a statement provided to CNN, campaign manager Becky Alery said, “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.”
Lewis made numerous other derogatory comments on his show over the years, some of which drew notice from media outlets including The Atlantic. In November 2012, CNN reports, he suggested that women who make birth control a voting priority are not human beings. “This one, if you’re that far down the road and you say you’re a human being, I’ve got my suspicions. You’re not, you’re without a brain,” he said. “You have no, you have no cognitive function whatsoever. If that’s all it takes to buy you off.”
In a December 2012 segment, he returned to the sexist narrative in saying that, “Only we can tell our young women, ‘Don’t look like some slut and you won’t get hit on,’” CNN reports.
Lewis, who narrowly won his seat in 2016, is being challenged for reelection by Democrat Angie Craig, who was also one of his competitors in the 2016 race. The Cook Political Report considers the race a toss-up.