SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — A Republican candidate for governor is apologizing and offering an explanation about his comment on the house floor Thursday that other legislators found to be sexist and offensive.
Representative Steve Haugaard of Sioux Falls referred to a woman he knows who’s battling addiction as a quote, “wrung-out whore.” Haugaard says he regrets his choice of words but stands by the intent of his message.
Representative Steve Haugaard’s comment came during a floor debate over a bill about who can prescribe medical marijuana when he referenced a woman he knows who’s addicted to meth.
“She’s now in her early thirties. She was a beautiful girl in her teens and a sweet kid. She is now a kind of wrung-out whore because she has prostituted herself for drugs over and over again. This is an example of where this can lead,” Haugaard said on Thursday.
Haugaard’s comment drew a vocal backlash from within the chamber.
“Point of order.” Please keep it to the bill at hand.”
Haugaard says he used the exact phrase the woman used to describe herself and that he repeated the words for the effect to draw attention to the problem of addiction.
“And so my comments were not meant to offend. But simply to give you the shocking reality, this is where things can go,” Haugaard said.
Haugaard apologized to members of the House. But Democrats aren’t buying the apology.
“I don’t feel like he truly repented, or felt remorse for what he said or understood why it was so upsetting to the women of the House floor,” Rep. Erin Healy, (D) Sioux Falls said.
Healy says Haugaard’s language will only further stigmatize addiction and make it harder for women to seek help. She also says Haugaard’s comments were misogynistic, a claim Haugaard denies. His wife Mary came to our interview in support of Haugaard.
“Misogynistic? When I was speaker, I appointed women to be chairs of committees and vice-chairs and respected everybody that was in the chamber and I don’t think you’d find anybody that would say otherwise,” Haugaard said.
Haugaard says the woman he was referring to is now drug-free thanks to counseling and treatment. He says the backlash over his comment is politically-based. Healy denies politics are involved, but says Haugaard will likely pay a political price in his race for governor.
Haugaard’s opponent, Governor Kristi Noem is calling on the Speaker of the House to formally reprimand and censure Haugaard, saying this isn’t the first time he has used his position of power to demean women.