A North Carolina state legislator faced backlash on social media Wednesday after commenting about a group of visiting female high school students.
The students were introduced to legislators in the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee Wednesday morning after traveling from Anson County to Raleigh for the Future Farmers of America conference. Sen. Norm Sanderson, a Republican from Pamlico County, is chairman of the committee.
After the introduction, Sanderson offered advice to the student group from the lectern.
"I know for sure that if you continue to recruit young ladies like (those sitting in) the front row, you're not gonna have any trouble recruiting young men," Sanderson said. "We'll have more farmers then we know what to do with."
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The group of students included young men and women, but the women were sitting in the front row. Their teacher was also with them in the committee room.
Reactions on Twitter, after the NC Insider tweeted the quote, called Sanderson's comment sexist and gross.
Donald Bryson, president and CEO of the conservative Civitas Institute — who was in the committee room and heard the comment — replied to the tweet saying, "I cringed."
Rick Henderson, editor-in-chief of the Carolina Journal, responded: "Could we call this 'tweets from 1955?' Or would that be too recent?"
The Twitter account of the Senate Democratic Caucus tweeted "Girls in the FFA can't just be there for an interest in farming? This is gross."
Ginger Garner, Sanderson's Democratic opponent in November, responded with her own tweet saying: "Elected officials should serve as an example to our students through their actions & words. Senator Sanderson's comments today objectified female students & minimized their work & involvement in the FFA. His comments are appalling & entirely inappropriate."
When asked about his comments during the meeting, Sanderson said: "My experience has always been that smart men follow strong women."
He continued: "My comments were intended to express my admiration and respect for these young women for their work with the Future Farmers of America. I look forward to them becoming part of North Carolina's next generation of farmers and making contributions to our state's number one industry if that is indeed the path they choose."