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SD lawmaker under fire for derogatory remarks directed at woman on House floor

Gubernatorial candidate and State Rep. Steve Haugaard (R-Sioux Falls) has come under intense scrutiny after he described a female friend as a “wrung out whore.”
(Dakota News Now)
Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 7:05 PM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A South Dakota legislator and gubernatorial candidate is facing criticism from both sides of the aisle following a comment he made describing a woman on the floor of the House.

During a speech Thursday on SB 26, which deals with access to medical marijuana, Rep. Steve Haugaard (R-Sioux Falls) referred to a woman he knew personally as a “wrung-out whore.”

Haugaard spoke in opposition to the bill, and marijuana in general, relating a story about a young woman he knew whom he felt used marijuana as a gateway to harder drugs.

“Over the years, she used marijuana and thought it was okay,” Haugaard said. “And she continued to use that until she discovered that wasn’t quite a ‘big enough kick.’ And then she decided, maybe meth was the answer. So then she started using meth. And now she’s in her early 30s. She was a beautiful young girl. And a sweet kid. She is now kind of a run-out whore. Because she is prostituting herself out for drugs. Over and over again.”

Haugaard was jeered by his fellow lawmakers and then cut off by the acting House Speaker, who asked him to keep the discussion to the “bill at hand.” Haugaard complied, saying it is important to keep a high standard when it comes to physicians identifying cannabis as a “medical need.”

Shortly after the remark, Haugaard apologized on the House floor for his choice of words.

But lawmakers from both parties were quick to speak out against Haugaard’s comments. Rep. Erin Healy (D-Sioux Falls) tweeted that a “line was crossed,” saying there is “no room for misogyny and aggression against women in our state legislature.”

State Rep. Tamara St. John (R-Sisseton) said that she was “saddened to the point of tears” by the remarks.

Governor Kristi Noem, who Haugaard is running against in the upcoming Republican gubernatorial primary, was even more pointed.

“I am disappointed and appalled by the inappropriate and offensive language used today on the House floor by Representative Haugaard,” Noem said in a statement.

Noem suggested that her Republican primary opponent should face consequences for his remarks.

“I am calling on the Speaker and the House to take a stand against this irresponsible and abusive behavior by formally reprimanding and censuring Mr. Haugaard.”

Speaker Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham), who presides over the House, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.

Haugaard has since apologized again for his word choice, calling it “inappropriate.”

“I realize that offended people, to use that particular word. And I do apologize for that,” Haugaard told reporters after the incident. “Sometimes on the House floor, to get points across, you need to be expressive and really get to the heart of the issue. Too many times we dance around the issues on the House floor.”

Haugaard also pushed back against Noem calling for him to be censured.

“The governor can do whatever she chooses to do,” Haugaard said. “Unfortunately, she has lied about some of the things I’ve done in the past. She has made comments that I’m some sort of a misogynist... That’s just an absolute false statement.”

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