• Kyodo

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A parliamentary vice minister ridiculed last year for being carried over a puddle in a typhoon-hit area is under fire again after joking about the gaffe, prompting condemnation from both sides of the aisle on Thursday.

Shunsuke Mutai, parliamentary vice Cabinet Office minister, was visiting the site of deadly flooding in Iwate Prefecture in September last year when he was seen crossing a stretch of shallow flood water on a staffer’s back, having neglected to bring rain boots.

Mutai apologized at the time. But on Wednesday, he joked at a Tokyo fundraising party for his campaign that the “boot industry really made some money” as a result of the blunder.

The government’s top spokesman said Thursday he and disaster management minister Jun Matsumoto have strongly cautioned Mutai.

“This was an extremely inappropriate remark,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

Mutai, a lawmaker with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, apologized again Thursday, telling reporters at the Diet that he will “deeply reflect” on his actions. At a news conference later in the day, he said he does not intend to resign.

A senior member of Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, called Mutai’s behavior “really pathetic.”

“It’s unforgivable to turn something like that into a joke at his own party,” Yoshio Urushibara told a news conference.

Renho, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, said Mutai’s remark was “shameful” and “raises questions about his responsibility as a parliamentary vice minister.”

Mutai was part of a delegation visiting the town of Iwaizumi, where flooding and landslides from Typhoon Lionrock had left nine people dead in a nursing home.

He prefaced his joke Wednesday by telling partygoers that his gaffe had prompted the government to acquire a great number of boots for officials to borrow.

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