Nine months after he was accused by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner of attacking contraception and sexual freedom, billionaire conservative financier Foster Friess offered his retort: “Contraception’s been very, very good to me.”
At a Friday breakfast In Washington hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Friess — who helped finance Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign last year and ran into trouble for wryly saying that in the past women put aspirin between their knees for contraception — said female voters were “seduced” by Democrats into believing Republicans were waging a “war on women,” and lamented that Republicans didn’t do more to defend themselves.
“I am absolutely stunned how the Democrats were able to somehow say that the Republicans had a war on women. … What was the war on women? They tried convince that somehow Santorum was going to do this, that Republicans were against contraception,” he said. “Hugh Hefner said, this guy Friess wants to reverse the sexual revolution. Well, I have four kids. They’re two years apart. And contraception’s been very, very good to me.”
Friess smiled as the reporters in the room laughed.
“And so how the Democrats got away with this, I think, is another indication of a flaw of the Republicans. No one confronted that. No one confronted that and said this is a bald-faced demagoguery. But a lot of the women out there, they, you know, they were, I guess — what’s the proper word I want to use — seduced — that this a war on women.”
In the May 2012 edition of Playboy, Hefner wrote an editorial criticizing the GOP’s “war against sex,” where he called out Friess by name.
“All these years later I hear echoes of this same ignorance espoused by a new crop of self-appointed arbiters who are determined to oversee our morality. I heard it when Santorum backer Foster Friess said, ‘Back in my days, [women] used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives,’ implying that if women held an aspirin between their legs, they wouldn’t open them. I heard it when I learned about proposed anti-abortion legislation in Kansas that would protect doctors who conceal vital medical information from pregnant women. And I heard it when Rush Limbaugh called a Georgetown University law student a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ after she testified on Capitol Hill about allowing employers to avoid providing contraception for religious reasons. … Fifty years of sexual freedom vanished in a sound bite.”
“That message,” said Friess, “took advantage of all the low-information women voters out there who just follow Joy Behar, and had no idea that Rick Santorum — and Mother Theresa — believe that contraception goes against the Bible’s teaching.”
He said Republicans must energize social conservatives in order to win elections.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.