Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minnesota) is under fire for comments he made almost seven years ago regarding women who had claimed they had been sexually harassed by then-presidential candidate Herman Cain.
Lewis is presently in a close re-election campaign battle to retain control of his seat. He represents the 2nd Congressional District in Minnesota, which he won in 2016, defeating his Democratic opponent at the time by less than 2 percentage points, according to Ballotpedia.
Recently uncovered audio of Lewis, speaking as a host on a radio program in 2011, showcased his attitudes on women who were making accusations against Cain, whom they said made unwanted advances on them. Some women also alleged Cain groped them without their consent, according to reporting at the time by CNN.
Lewis, speaking in 2011 when the allegations came forward, suggested that the women alleging improprieties by the candidate were blowing things out of proportion, and that their experiences didn’t warrant as much outrage.
“I don’t want to be callous here, but how traumatizing was it?” Lewis said to a caller who brought up the allegations on his program, according to reporting from the Washington Post.
Lewis then took his commentary in a more general direction, suggesting that these types of situations — where men made unwanted contact with women — were so common that it shouldn’t be considered a traumatizing experience.
“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?” Lewis asked. “You’ll never get over it?”
He then assumed the role of a woman on the air, pretending to be someone who was harassed by a man.
“It was the most traumatizing experience,” he said in a mocking tone.
Going back to Cain’s accusers, Lewis also suggested that their experiences weren’t as bad as others, and didn’t deserve as much anger.
“Come on! She wasn’t raped,” Lewis said.
As news of Lewis’s commentary from 2011 came forward this week, his campaign manager, Becky Alery, suggested the timing of their release was a more important subject to discuss.
“Surprise, two weeks before the election and more talk show tapes appear. Boy, didn’t see that one coming,” Alery said.
She went on to say that Lewis was defending Cain over allegations he believed to have been false, drawing comparisons to recent allegations made against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings last month.
“Lewis, of course, was mocking false claims of harassment and precisely the environment that tried to destroy (Supreme Court Justice) Clarence Thomas and Judge Kavanaugh,” Alery said. “At some point, you have to ask yourself, is there nothing these people will do for power?”