MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis, a Minnesota Republican, is striking back after a comment surfaced Friday from a 2012 radio show in which he claimed black people have an "entitlement mentality."
The comment, which also alluded to what Lewis called a "race war," was reported Friday by CNN, which obtained five months of audio from "The Jason Lewis Show."
In a statement Friday to The Associated Press, Lewis' campaign called the report an "attack" that ignores his record in Congress, including work on juvenile justice and criminal justice reform legislation.
"This latest attempt at flipping a swing district won't work any better than the first, or no doubt the many more out of context snippets to come," Lewis campaign spokeswoman Becky Alery said in the statement.
Lewis spent two decades as a conservative radio host before running for Congress, leveraging his popularity as "Mr. Right" to a narrow win in Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District even as Democrats tried to use a history of such remarks against him.
The remarks surfaced a day after Lewis tried to dismiss concerns about other audio in which he wondered aloud, "Can we call anybody a slut?" Those comments were made in 2012 while Lewis was filling in for Rush Limbaugh, but they hadn't been previously been publicized until they were first reported Wednesday by CNN. Lewis tried to dismiss concerns about those remarks by saying he was paid to be provocative, and his past career had been fully litigated in his 2016 election.
On Friday, Lewis' campaign said the latest comments represent an "an orchestrated attempt" to get him to back off his public policy positions on issues such as reducing crime in minority communities or voter ID laws, something he will not do.
Democrat Angie Craig, who narrowly lost to Lewis in 2016 and is running against him again, said in a statement she was appalled by his remarks. She called them "shocking."
"Our elected officials should be held to the highest standard and Lewis has failed that test time and again," she said.