Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, seen by many as a promising Republican challenger to Sen. Claire McCaskill, found himself in a defensive posture Wednesday after it was reported he drew links between the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s and sex trafficking today.
McCaskill sent a sardonic tweet Wednesday night after The Kansas City Star reported Hawley used a speech in December to blame the sexual revolution on a modern-day "crisis that goes by the name human trafficking."
I didn’t go to one of those fancy private schools, but the history I learned in public schools & Mizzou taught me that the evidence of trafficking of women for sex goes back to before 2000 BC. It didn’t begin with women’s rights and the birth control pill. @HawleyMo
— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) January 31, 2018
One of Hawley's Republican rivals for the nomination also criticized the attorney general.
The sad lesson from yesterday and last week is that saying crazy things will get you a lot of media attention. The bad kind. And you'll lose the general election of course even if you win the primary. But at least you'll feel good about yourself or something.
— Austin Petersen (@AP4Liberty) February 1, 2018
For his part, Hawley appears to be not backing down. He responded to McCaskill's tweet:
Get real. I'm for contraception & women working. I’m against exploitation of women promoted for decades by Hollywood & culture. Have to change that to stop trafficking. Fly commercial home from your next Hollywood fundraiser & ask people what Hollywood is doing to our culture. https://t.co/NJ3MdvFGcI
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) February 1, 2018
Hawley's comments were made during an address to a group of pastors in December put on by an organization called the American Renewal Project. The Hawley campaign has posted the audio of the full address online.
Hawley said an explosion in sex trafficking today was an effect of the cultural revolution:
"There is a market for it. Why is there? Because our culture has completely lost its way. The sexual revolution has led to exploitation of women on a scale we would never have imagined," he said.
He also cast the fight against sex trafficking as part of a larger cultural battle.
"The effects in our society of the so-called sexual revolution, you know what I'm talking about: the 1960s, the 1970s," he said. "It became commonplace among our cultural elites — Hollywood and the media — to denigrate the biblical truth about husband and wife, man and woman, to denigrate the biblical teaching about the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of the family."
Hawley has made cracking down on sex trafficking in Missouri a priority since taking office last year, launching a statewide task force on the issue and instituting new consumer protection regulations designed to curb the problem.
Kyle Palmer is KCUR's morning newscaster. You can follow him on Twitter.