House Republican Leader Kenneth Fredette cited his “man’s brain” way of thinking Wednesday in explaining his opposition to expanding Medicaid. Some on the other side of the aisle swiftly rebuked him, and he apologized.
During a speech on the House floor Wednesday morning, the Newport representative compared the debate on Medicaid expansion to insights gleaned from the 1992 relationship guide, “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.”
“It really talks about the way that men and women can do a better job at communicating,” Fredette said. “Because if you listen to the debate today, in my mind, a man’s mind, I hear really two fundamental issues. From the other side of the aisle, I hear the conversation being about ‘free.’ ‘This is free; we need to take it; and it’s free, and we need to do it now,’ and that’s sort of the fundamental message that my brain receives. Now my brain, being a man’s brain, sort of thinks differently because I say, ‘Well, it’s not, if it’s free, is it really free?’ because I say, in my brain, there’s a cost to this.”
The Maine People’s Alliance, a liberal activist group, quickly condemned Fredette’s comments. The group’s health care organizer, Jennie Pirkl, said in a statement it was “incredibly distasteful for him to use offensive, gender-based stereotypes to advance his anti-health care agenda.”
“It was one of the most offensive speeches I’ve ever heard in the House,” said Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland. “I thought this was 2013, not 1813.”
Fredette later apologized for his comments on the House floor as the chamber started an afternoon session. A spokesman for Fredette referred a reporter to that apology, which he called “unequivocal.”
Rep. Sharri MacDonald, R-Old Orchard Beach, said later on the House floor she wasn’t offended by Fredette’s comments.