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Women's group demands apology for Facebook comments by MN congressional candidate

A group is demanding that state Republican congressional candidate Stewart Mills apologize for Facebook comments it says disrespect women. A dozen women, calling themselves Duluth Women for Decency, gathered in the Rose Garden Wednesday to state ...

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Steward Mills

A group is demanding that state Republican congressional candidate Stewart Mills apologize for Facebook comments it says disrespect women.

A dozen women, calling themselves Duluth Women for Decency, gathered in the Rose Garden Wednesday to state their opposition to Mills' comments posted on his personal Facebook page in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Mills sought the 8th Congressional District seat in 2014 and is in a rematch this year against U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, DFL-Crosby.

Mills has deleted the comments, but Duluth resident Tamara Jones said deletion isn't enough and that an apology is necessary from the candidate. Jones said Mills needs to carefully consider whether a candidate who made the comments he did on Facebook should represent a district with more than 300,000 females living in it.

"We are disgusted that Stewart Mills thinks it's OK to joke about battered women. We're disgusted by the fact that Stewart Mills thinks it's OK to objectify women in his private life, but publicly says the exact opposite. We expect more from our elected officials," Jones said.

Mills didn't issue an apology on Wednesday.

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In response to the group's statements Wednesday, Mills' campaign manager John Eloranta said in a statement, "It's not surprising the worn-out playbook of personal attacks is being resurrected rather than defending the Obama-Nolan failed economic record - more women leaving the labor force than ever before - which continues to kill jobs and hurt women and working families. Minnesotans in our part of the state deserve real dialog on the serious issues we face like promoting opportunity and job growth, ensuring we keep America safe and forcing Washington to stop spending money it doesn't have."

The Facebook posts, recently obtained by City Pages in Minneapolis, included a comment from Mills that a study finding that oral sex is "good for women's health" was his idea, another comment about being forced to participate in a walk to support a battered women's shelter and that his wife was "taking care of the kids an making me dinner," and a link to a "Nordic horror" trailer that involves a nude woman. He also posted that he had "plenty of time to be 'Peter Pan' and go play in Neverland" until he has to "grow up and get a real job" because his father was still working for Mills Fleet Farm.

Mills' comments were disrespectful toward women and disrespectful comments give permission for others to say and believe similar sentiments, fueling a cycle of dehumanizing women, said Lindsay Brown, a member of the Senate District 7 DFL executive board. In a statement read during the press conference, Brown described how she has panic attacks and wakes up screaming at night, symptoms of the post-traumatic stress disorder she has suffered since she was raped. She wrote that she was mentioning her own experience because it's similar to the experiences of thousands of Duluth residents and millions of Americans.

"All forms of abuse and violence against women are rooted in a lack of full respect for women as human beings," she wrote. "The cycle of dehumanizing women has to stop and for it to stop, we need to recognize and address the root problem - a problem that Mr. Stewart Mills has actively contributed to."

Mills' Facebook comment about begrudgingly attending a walk supporting a battered-women's shelter made Lori Stavnes feel angry and disappointed. Mills' comments were "unacceptable," said Stavnes, national training project coordinator at the Domestic Abuse Intervention Program.

She questioned what message Mills is sending to men who abuse women in their home. Joking about a battered-women's shelter is telling women who are abused that they don't matter, she said.

"I think that it says, 'I don't need to pay attention to this problem of violence against women. I don't need to be involved and neither do other men because it's not really a problem and especially not my problem.' " Stavnes said. "I say that you need to be involved, Stewart, especially if you want to represent northeastern Minnesota, where thousands of marginalized and battered women and their children live."

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