Republican Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming said Tuesday he regrets using “a poor choice of words” when he suggested to students last week that if a man wears a tutu in a bar and ends up getting bullied, then it’s partly the man’s fault because he “kind of asks for it.”
In an emailed statement to CNN, Enzi said he does not believe “that anyone should be bullied, intimidated or attacked because of their beliefs” and that his message “was intended specifically to be about promoting respect and tolerance toward each other.”
“I hope if people look at the entirety of my speech, they will understand that,” he added. “I regret a poor choice of words during part of my presentation. None of us is infallible and I apologize to anyone who has taken offense. No offense was intended. Quite the opposite in fact, and so I ask for your understanding as well.”
While speaking to students at Greybull High School and Middle School on Thursday, Enzi was asked what he and others in Washington are doing to improve life for LGBT individuals in Wyoming, which is nicknamed the Equality State.
“We always say in Wyoming you can be anything you want to be as long as you don’t push it in somebody’s face,” Enzi said, according to Mathew Burciaga, the editor at the Greybull Standard.
Enzi, according to Burciaga, went on to use an anecdote to demonstrate his point, saying he knows a man who wears a tutu to a bar and is then surprised that he keeps getting in fights.
“Well, he kind of asks for it a little bit. That’s the way that he winds up with that kind of problem,” he said.
He urged students not to embarrass or ridicule people because those individuals “will remember it for life.”
Max D’Onofrio, a spokesman for Enzi, said in an emailed statement to CNN the senator went on to say that people must learn to live together and respect each other.
“He talked about how many Wyoming folks take a live-and-let-live approach to life, but we need to be conscious that everyone may not react the same way to differing value and belief systems,” D’Onofrio added. “He advocates nothing but respect and civil treatment for members of the LGBT community.”
In 1998, Matthew Shepard, a gay college student at the time, was severely beaten and left for dead while tied to a fence post in Laramie, Wyoming.
His death sparked national outcry and attention on hate crimes, and in 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which made it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.