TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -At an energy policy discussion sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute and hosted by Axios and NBC Thursday, Perry criticized wind power, defended coal and nuclear and said the “science is out” on man-made climate change.
The former governor of Texas was then interrupted by a protester who yelled that fossil fuels are causing climate change, which is killing people in poor countries.
“Let me tell you where people are dying, is in Africa, because of the lack of energy they have there,” Perry responded, according to Axios. “And it's going to take fossil fuels to push power out into those villages in Africa.”
Perry then told a story about meeting a young girl during his trip to Africa who told him that she wants electricity so she can read “by the light of a fire and have those fumes literally killing people.”
“But also from the standpoint of sexual assault,” Perry continued. “When the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts.”
A spokesperson from the Department of Energy said Perry’s comments were meant to highlight the fact that “while many Americans take electricity for granted there are people in other countries who are impacted by their lack of electricity.”
“The Secretary just returned from Africa, where people made the point to him directly over and over about the impact that power has on their citizens,” Shaylyn Hynes said, according to The Hill. “One person told him about how light can be a deterrent to sexual assault and security in remote areas.”
However, the clarification was not enough for Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, who said Perry’s comments were “twisted” and called for him to resign “before he causes any more damage.”
“It was already clear that Rick Perry 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 inexcusable attempt to minimize a serious and pervasive issue,” Brune said in a statement.
Perry’s comments also caused a tidal wave of criticism on social media, with Twitter users pointing out that even if having lights helps prevent sexual assault, the energy does not have to come from fossil fuels.