The Ecuadorian president, Lenin Moreno, has apologised for what looked like a clumsy joke about calling out predatory sexual behaviour after he claimed that accusers only report harassment when their “offender” is “ugly”.
He also noted that men are constantly in danger of facing false accusations, especially when they cannot boast of having good looks.
"That is to say, it is 'harassment' when it comes from an ugly person. But if the person is good looking... they usually do not think it is harassment”, Moreno said at a conference in the Ecuadorian city Guayaquil, as cited by the media.
It was only a matter of time before the remark triggered a wave of criticism on social media, as netizens lambasted the president for downplaying the seriousness of such accusations and trivialising sexual abuse. Some even called on Moreno to resign so as not to damage the image of his country.
Following the avalanche of criticism, Moreno took to Twitter to say that he regrets having made such a remark.
“In my comment about harassment, I did not intend to minimise such a serious matter as violence or abuse. I apologise if it was understood that way. I reject violence against women in all its forms!” he tweeted.
Netizens were not ready to let the scandal go that easily.
BBC News - Ecuador president says women 'only report harassment from ugly men' https://t.co/x4eNMAeLzy @PNUDEcuador @MFAEcuador @EmbajadaEcuNL The awful Lenin Moreno. Please avoid any contact just in case. A better President must be elected ASAP.— Ana Alvarez - Web planned: covertharassment.org.uk (@CovertHarasUK) February 2, 2020
What was said by President @ Lenin Moreno is stupid. Beyond the physical characteristics of a man, HARASSMENT IS VIOLENCE If there weren't so many famous actors with demands for harassment and sexual assault, don't you think?— JaviKdnaM (@J_Kdna) February 2, 2020
Ecuador's president @Lenin Moreno, not only reduced 80%of the national budget to end violence against women but now claims that:"Men are permanently subjected to the danger of being accused of harassment"Message comes through very clear, he doesn't give a ** about us being killed— Emilia Zamora (@zemilia8gmailc1) February 1, 2020
Lenin Moreno: “Women accuse men of harassment only if the man is ugly” or something.— taseenb (@taseenb) February 1, 2020
I don’t know how to translate the shit this US banana republic puppet says. He’s so disgusting it’s embarrassing to watch. The goal is to make #Ecuador irrelevant again https://t.co/7E58hF6SFT
However, some sided with the president.
Lenin Moreno, Ecuadorian President, says women are more likely to report harassment if the male harasser is ugly.— Sporting Nest (@SportingNest) February 2, 2020
He is correct.
It fits with psychological studies of victimology which prove that sexual attractiveness reduces feelings of victimisation in women.