If you needed any further proof that the Trump administration is the political embodiment of the Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels classic Dumb and Dumber, here it is: Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Thursday that fossil fuels can help prevent sexual assault by keeping the lights on.
No, this is not a joke. No, you did not accidentally stumble onto The Onion.
Perry was speaking about energy policy with Meet the Press host Chuck Todd and Axios founder and CEO Jim VandeHei. According to The Hill, Perry was discussing his recent trip to Africa and said a young girl told him that energy is important to her because she often reads by the light of a fire with toxic fumes.
“I just got back from Africa. I’m going to finish up with this, because I think I heard a lady say there are people dying,” Perry said. “Let me tell you where people are dying, is in Africa, because of the lack of energy they have there.
“And it’s going to take fossil fuels to push power out into those villages in Africa, where a young girl told me to my face, ‘One of the reasons that electricity is so important to me is not only because I’m not going to have to try and 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. So from the standpoint of how you really affect people’s lives, fossil fuels is going to play a role in that. I happen to think it’s going to play a positive role,” the energy secretary concluded.
Good sir, are you really serious right now?
As it always is with people in this administration who talk out of the sides of their necks, the Department of Energy immediately sought to “clarify” Perry’s remarks.
Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in a statement:
The secretary was making the important point 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.
Hynes added that while Perry was at the conference in Africa, “One person told him about how light can be a deterrent to sexual assault and increase security in remote areas. Another leader told him about how women in their country have to go to the store every day for a new carton of milk because they don’t have a working refrigerator. Those powerful stories stuck with him and that is what he was sharing with the crowd in Washington today.”
First of all, Africa is a whole-ass continent, so I’m going to need you to be a little more specific about where you were. Ethiopia? Egypt? Ghana? Where in Africa were you when these people told you these stories that made you want to do so much to help?
It’s kind of hard to believe that your motive is helping the people of “Africa” when you cannot even be bothered to mention exactly where you were or where these “villages” are that you want to help so badly.
Furthermore, I might be wrong, but isn’t saying “literally” an American thing? I can’t imagine some girl in an “African village” using that term as she described conditions in her village to Perry. It doesn’t make sense.
In fact, the whole story stinks of “my black friend,” but I have other posts to write, so I’m going to leave it at that.
I will add, however, that the Sierra Club took issue with Perry’s remarks and said in a statement:
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. Women, and particularly women of color, are among some of the most severely impacted by the climate crisis, and it is these same communities that are most at-risk of sexual assault.
Thank you, Sierra Club, for saying more politely and more succinctly what I wanted to say in this post today.