CNN is reporting that audio recordings show that Minnesota Republican Congressman Jason Lewis repeatedly minimized and trivialized concerns about sexual harassment on a radio show he hosted from 2009 to 2014. Some of these comments came in 2012, when Lewis spoke about allegations of unwanted touching made against then Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.
“I don’t want to be callous here, but how traumatizing was it?” Lewis told radio listeners. “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?”
According to CNN, Lewis used “a voice mocking an emotionally distraught woman” and asked, “You’ll never get over? It was the most traumatizing experience? Come on! She wasn’t raped.”
CNN also said Lewis “viewed sexual harassment law as an assault on First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, calling it ‘unconstitutional.’ Lewis said he did not think off-color comments, jokes and offensive remarks about or to women rose to the level of needing government enforcement.”
Lewis did not respond to CNN’s request for comments but an attorney representing the radio network that produced the show sent a “cease and desist” letter to prevent the network from posting the recording. CNN has ignored the letter, arguing that the recording falls under the category of fair use.
Lewis is running for re-election in a race that is considered a toss-up.