- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2008

DENVER — Dan Aykroyd used to draw big laughs by calling Jane Curtin an “ignorant slut” on “Saturday Night Live,” but no one was chuckling when a Colorado lawmaker used the s-word last week.

State Rep. Larry Liston apologized yesterday for using the word “sluts” to refer to unmarried teenage parents during a lunch presentation before state House Republicans by the Colorado Health Foundation, which included a discussion of the group’s 2007 health report card and teen pregnancy rates.

“In my parents’ day and age, [unwed teen parents] were sent away, they were shunned, they were called what they are,” said Mr. Liston, as quoted by the Colorado Springs Gazette. “There was at least a sense of shame. There’s no sense of shame today. Society condones it … I think it’s wrong. They’re sluts. And I don’t mean just the women. I mean the men, too.”

The Colorado Springs Republican later explained it was an “inadvertent comment” that was used “kind of spur of the moment,” but it won him instant notoriety at the state Capitol and across the Internet “blogosphere.” Scores of angry calls and e-mails poured into his office after newspaper Web sites and feminist blogs posted the remark.

Rep. Debbie Stafford, a Democrat, said she clipped newspaper articles of the event and posted them in the women’s bathroom at the state Capitol.

“It’s appalling and disgusting to me,” said Mrs. Stafford, who works as a youth pastor and counselor. “To me, that old-school mentality of castigating the woman, sending her out, calling her a slut, I think has led to a thread of shame that has been passed on from generation to generation.”

If anyone expected conservatives to come to his rescue, it didn’t happen. House Republican women issued a statement criticizing Mr. Liston’s “unfortunate use of language” and “inappropriate and unacceptable comments.”

Rick Wise, who speaks at high schools with his wife promoting abstinence, said unwed teenagers facing an unplanned pregnancy need support, not banishment. “The teens, especially in that situation, feel plenty alienated. We don’t need to shun them more,” Mr. Wise said.

Girls at the Florence Crittenton School in Denver, which serves pregnant teens and young mothers, wrote letters to state legislators about the comment, said Kari Buchanan, community-relations coordinator for Parent Pathways, which operates the school.

“They were just disappointed that there are people in the community who feel that way about them,” Ms. Buchanan said.

Mr. Liston issued an emotional apology yesterday on the House floor, referring to the comment as a “derogatory term” that was “inappropriate and insensitive.”

“I was wrong to use the word, and I’m truly sorry for the offense it may have caused,” Mr. Liston said.

He issued a separate apology to Republican state Rep. Stella Garza-Hicks, who also attended the health presentation and later said she was startled by his use of the term. “I was surprised he used that word,” Mrs. Garza-Hicks said. “Of course, he is a good representative and I do accept his apology.”

Mrs. Stafford said she is willing to let bygones be bygones, but “having said that, the intent behind the comment causes my blood to boil.”

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