WASHINGTON (CN) – Energy Secretary Rick Perry is under fire for statements he made in a public forum Thursday suggesting the proliferation of fossil fuels help prevent sexual assault.
On Thursday, during an Axios/NBC forum on energy policy, Perry recounted his recent trip to Africa where he said people were dying because of the “lack of energy there.”
“And it’s going to take fossil fuels to push power out into those villages in Africa where a young girl told me to my face, ‘One of the reasons that electricity is so important to me is not only because I’m not going to have to try to read by the light of a fire and have those fumes literally killing people’ but also from the standpoint of sexual assault,” Perry said.
“When the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts. So from the standpoint of how you really affect people’s lives, fossil fuels [are] going to play a role in that. I happen to think it’s going to play a positive role,” he added.
At the event, Perry did not comment on whether or not renewable fuel sources would be capable of achieving the same end.
The Energy Department sought to clarify Perry’s statements Thursday afternoon. One spokesperson issued a statement saying Perry was emphasizing a message repeated to him during his trip.
“[People] made the point to him directly, over and over, about the impact that power has on their citizens. One person told him how light can be a deterrent to sexual assault and security in remote areas,” the spokesperson said.
The Sierra Club has called for Perry’s resignation, saying in a statement it was “already clear that [he] is unfit to lead the Department of Energy.”
“But to suggest that fossil fuel development will decrease sexual assault is not only blatantly untrue, it is an un-excusable attempt to minimize a serious and pervasive issue.” continued Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.
“He does not deserve to hold office another day with these twisted ideas, and he should resign from his position immediately before he causes any more damage,” Brune said.
The Sierra Club has been critical of other Trump administration officials in the past, including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
The group demanded Pruitt’s resignation last month over comments he has made suggesting that regulating carbon emissions is not under the purview of the agency.
Like Pruitt, Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke has also been rebuked by the Sierra Club, mainly over his chartered air travel.