PORTLAND — The Republican candidate for Oregon governor drew boos at a Portland debate when he suggested that successful women aren't as susceptible to sexual violence.
Dr. Bud Pierce's remarks came Friday after his Democratic opponent Gov. Kate Brown disclosed that she has been a victim of domestic violence, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
"A woman that has a great education and training and a great job is not susceptible to this kind of abuse by men, women or anyone," Pierce said.
The line drew groans and boos from the audience at the Portland City Club, KGW-TV reported.
Pierce issued a statement after the debate that said, in part: "I know that any woman, regardless of economic status, can be subject to domestic violence and sexual abuse. Sexual and physical abuse is morally wrong, is against the law, and must be opposed with all efforts."
He also apologized to Brown and "anyone else who may have taken my comments the wrong way."
The debate exchange began when both candidates were asked about a recent report by the Women's Foundation of Oregon showing that over half of the women and girls in the state have reported being the victim of some form of domestic or sexual violence. Candidates were asked what they would do for women.
"I know what it feels like to be a victim of domestic violence. I know what it feels like to represent clients who can't get restraining orders on abusive partners," said Brown, listing her efforts to strengthen the state's domestic violence laws.
Pierce criticized Brown for not doing enough to drive down the state's high rate of sexual violence against women.
"I would argue that in addition to strong laws and going after every sexual predator and every abuser, that the way we can make woman have a better existence and be less susceptible to being harmed is to make them powerful in terms of their jobs and their opportunity," he said.
Brown shot back: "I grew up in a middle-class family. I went to law school. I know what it feels like to be paid less — substantially less — than the male lawyer in the office next to me."
"This is not just about power," she said. "This is about making sure women are not discriminated against because of their gender, because of their race and because of their sexual orientation."
A Brown campaign official told KGW-TV that the incident referred to did not involve her husband Dan Little.