WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican senator from Wyoming said Tuesday he regrets his poor choice of words after telling students a man who wears a tutu to a bar and gets into fights "kind of asks for it."
Sen. Mike Enzi said in a statement that his comments at Greybull High School and Middle School last week were about respect, tolerance and the dangers of bullying.
"I regret a poor choice of words during part of my presentation," Enzi said. "None of us is infallible and I apologize to anyone who has taken offense. No offense was intended. Quite the opposite in fact, and so I ask for your understanding as well."
The Huffington Post reported the comments Tuesday, quoting Greybull Standard editor Mathew Burciaga, who attended the event. In an audio recording Burciaga provided to The Associated Press, a high school student asks Enzi what work he's doing to improve the life of the LGBT community in Wyoming.
"We always say that in Wyoming you can be just about anything you want to be, as long as you don't push it in somebody's face," Enzi says. "I know a guy that wears a tutu and goes to bars on Friday night and is always surprised that he gets in fights. Well, he kind of asks for it a little bit. But that's the way that he winds up with that kind of problem."
Enzi adds that "the biggest thing that we need is civility" and that laws aren't always the answer.
Enzi spokesman Max D'Onofrio pointed out that Enzi also spoke to the students about "the importance of respecting other people and how it is incumbent on those in the communities we live in to treat others as you would want to be treated."
Asked about the comments, Enzi's office originally released a statement from the senator saying all people should be treated with respect and condemning bullying and hatred. Shortly after, the office released the second statement from Enzi saying he regretted his poor choice of words.
"No person, including LGBT individuals, should feel unsafe in their community," Enzi said in the second statement.
In 1998, gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was killed after being beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead. His slaying became a rallying cry in the gay rights movement and a federal hate crimes law now bears his name.
Gruver reported from Cheyenne, Wyoming.