Conservative group condemns west Michigan candidate's comments on rape, Russian invasion

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The conservative Michigan Freedom Fund condemned recent comments by a GOP state House candidate on rape and the Russian invasion of Ukraine as "despicable and disqualifying" and proof that he is "unworthy to serve" in the Michigan Legislature. 

Update:Michigan GOP chair criticizes state House candidate's comments on rape, Russia

Candidate Robert Regan, a Grand Rapids entrepreneur who won a special primary election for the Republican-leaning 74th House District last week, said in a Coalition to Rescue Michigan livestream Sunday that he tells his daughters, "If rape is inevitable, you should just lie back and enjoy it." He appeared to be drawing some sort of parallel between that advice and his opposition to giving up on attempts to decertify the 2020 election. 

Robert Regan is a Republican candidate for state House District 74 in Kent County.

The comments came after the candidate last week declined to say whether he would have supported a resolution condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine

"RJ Regan’s disgusting and dehumanizing comments on the horror of sexual assault along with his support of murderous dictator Vladimir Putin are despicable and completely disqualify him from holding public office," said Tori Sachs, executive director for the DeVos-backed Michigan Freedom Fund.

“I teach my four young daughters to stand up for themselves, to know their worth, and to fight back and speak out against creeps like Regan," Sachs said. "RJ Regan doesn’t belong anywhere near the state Capitol, and that is why we endorsed and supported his opponent.” 

Regan did not immediately respond to a call and text seeking comment.

Regan's comments on rape came during a discussion over whether those doubting the legitimacy of the election should continue to fight to overturn it more than a year after Michigan's vote count was certified. One participant said conservatives should instead focus on making changes for the next election and Regan appeared to liken that thinking to advice he said he gave to his daughters on rape. 

"Having three daughters, I tell my daughters, well, 'If rape is inevitable, you should just lie back and enjoy it.'" Regan said. "That's not how we roll. That's not how I won this election. We go right at it."

Regan came in first among four GOP House candidates in last week's primary for West Michigan's GOP-leaning 74th District. His opponent, Steven Gilbert, had been endorsed by the Michigan Freedom Fund. Regan took 33% of the vote and Gilbert finished second with 32%. 

Regan's rape comment echoed past controversial statements by public figures. In a 1988 interview, Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight described how he handled stress by saying, "I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it ... I'm not talking about that, about the act of rape. ... But what I'm talking about is, something happens to you, so you have to handle it — now."

Regan is the favorite in the May 3 special election against Democratic candidate Carol Glanville. The seat was left vacant when former GOP Rep. Mark Huizenga of Walker was elected to the state Senate.

If elected in May, Regan would hold the seat until December. If he ran for re-election, the Grand Rapids Republican would be running in a newly drawn district under the new redistricting plans adopted in December 2021. 

The day of the primary election Tuesday, Regan voiced doubt over the invasion of Ukraine and billionaire political donor George Soros' support for Ukraine. 

"If evil George is supporting U then the opposite is the right thing to do," Regan wrote. "Massive corruption, bio labs and money laundering is being taken out by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin; WEF, Soros and Clintons are none to happy about it."

When asked about the tweet Wednesday by The News, Regan declined to say whether he would support a House resolution to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and said "the difference between a conspiracy theory and the truth is about six to 12 months."

Regan also said he supported the decertification of Michigan's 2020 election, which Democratic President Joe Biden won by 154,000 votes over Republican former President Donald Trump.

Audits, court ruling and an investigation of the Republican-led Senate Oversight Committee have upheld Biden's win, but Trump and some loyalists have maintained unproven claims that there was widespread fraud.

Staff writer Craig Mauger contributed.