SARASOTA, Fla. -- A conservative radio host is in hot water after comments he made at this week's Republican rally in Sarasota. The GOP of Sarasota jointly hosted the event with the radio station WLSS. The station's radio host, Dennis Prager, shared some of his thoughts on the culture of rape on college campuses -- comments that even surprised the head of the Republican Party.
Prager claims that the number of reported rapes and sexual assaults on college campuses are being exaggerated by democrats in order to gain votes. Prager calls "the culture of rape" on college campuses a lie.
"The comments were completely inappropriate,” says Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota. “I think that the venue was the wrong place to talk about that type of issue."
Jessica Hays, the director of communications for the local organization Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center (SPARCC) says that excluding politics, this is a real issue.
"It's definitely an issue that needs to be discussed,” Hays says. “Our advocates here at SPARCC in speaking to them, the majority of the people that they're seeing are in that college age range."
New College students we spoke to say that although they have not experienced it themselves, rape is an epidemic that hits close to home for them.
"It's serious. I've heard really disturbing stories from people, female and male,” said one student.
"It can be verbal all the way up to rape. I guess verbal is more prevalent," said another.
The college has started a program to raise awareness among students.
The chairman for the Republican Party of Sarasota says Prager's statements do not represent the views of the Republican Party, and they were not aware that Prager would be discussing the topic based on his notes.
"I'm glad he's being called out for it,” Gruters says. “Because, like I said as a sitting board of trustees member for Florida State, sexual assault and rape is a very serious issues on our college campuses and there should be a zero tolerance policy across the board. And there certainly should be a zero tolerance policy for these types of issues to be even brought up at these type of events and forums.”
The Republican Party of Sarasota says this was the first time they have put on a jointly sponsored event, and the party will be more cautious in the future.