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Veteran LDP lawmaker’s remarks on sexual harassment case blasted by Komeito head

Kyodo

The head of Komeito on Tuesday called remarks made by former education minister Hakubun Shimomura “utterly incomprehensible,” after the Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker criticized a journalist that made sexual harassment allegations against a top bureaucrat.

Shimomura said during a weekend closed-door meeting that the reporter’s decision to record sexually suggestive remarks made by Junichi Fukuda and give the audio to a magazine was almost a criminal act, an opposition party said Monday.

“It’s natural that he retracted (his remarks),” Natsuo Yamaguchi, who heads Komeito, the junior coalition ally of the LDP, told reporters Tuesday after holding a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The recording made by the female TV Asahi reporter, posted online earlier this month by the weekly magazine Shukan Shincho, forced Administrative Vice Minister Junichi Fukuda to resign.

In a speech Sunday in Tokyo, the 63-year-old Shimomura said the reporter’s actions were “a crime in a sense,” according to an audio recording of the meeting provided to the media by the Japanese Communist Party and Monday’s edition of the opposition party’s newspaper.

Shimomura, who served as education minister under Abe until October 2015, retracted the remarks Monday, saying, “The expression was inappropriate.”

“It’s against the ethics of the press to secretly record a conversation in an off-the-record occasion,” Shimomura said in a statement. “I wanted to voice my concern because I suspected that the female reporter secretly recorded (the conversation) with the intention to give the audio to the weekly magazine from the beginning.”

The Lower House lawmaker also criticized the media in the speech, saying continued criticism of Abe amounted to an effort to destroy the country.

“Most TV broadcasters (are trying to) force Prime Minister Abe out of power. … I’m really inclined to think the Japanese media are trying to crush Japan,” he said.

Shimomura was referring to recent coverage of cronyism allegations leveled at Abe — namely the controversial sale of state-owned land to a school operator linked to the prime minister’s wife and the opening of a veterinarian school run by his friend.

When making those comments during a question and answer part of the lecture meeting, he also voiced frustration over the media’s critical tone toward Abe’s bid to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.