Rhetoric that was controversial several years ago is now politically fatal.
Republican Congressman Jason Lewis (R-Minn.) once mocked victims of sexual harassment, while lamenting laws intended to safeguard against workplace misconduct.
“I don’t want to be callous here, but how traumatizing was it?” Lewis said of sexual misconduct allegations surrounding former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain in 2012. “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?”
“You’ll never get over? It was the most traumatizing experience? Come on! She wasn’t raped,” continued Lewis in a voice mocking a woman.
As the host of The Jason Lewis Show, the former talk radio personality made the remarks just five years before he was elected to Congress. Audio of the comments was obtained by CNN’s KFile, courtesy of Michael Brodkorb—Minnesota’s former Republican deputy chair.
“As you know, I was a vociferous defender of Mr. Cain during the sexual harassment allegations because I detest sexual harassment law,” Lewis said during another radio broadcast. “Sexual harassment law bestows in the eye of the beholder anything he or she wants it to be it,” said Lewis. “It distorts our free speech rights. The law is wide enough to drive a semi through. It is, it is indeed just an albatross around the neck of every person in America who’s got someone who doesn’t like them.”
After KFile previously reported that Lewis once ranted about how women can no longer be called “sluts,” the Congressman appeared on a local Minnesota station to defend his comments as “provocative” ratings drivers.
“Look, a rhetorical discussion about the cultural changes and whether we can hold anyone, male or female, to standards made for an interesting hour, made for an interesting rhetorical discussion,” Lewis told WCCO’s The Chad Hartman Show in July. “That’s what you’re supposed to do on talk radio. And if you’re provocative when you do it, well, that’s part of our job. I presume, you know, the people that are running with this story are looking for ratings as well. So, it’s kind of sad that it’s come back to this, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”
A law firm representing the radio network that produced The Jason Lewis Show sent CNN a cease and desist letter shortly after KFile reached out to the Lewis’ campaign for comment.