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California gubernatorial candidate says employers should be allowed to ask women if they plan to have children

Larry Elder is one of the leading Republican candidates in a recall election that could unseat California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Nearly two decades before conservative radio host Larry Elder joined the long list of candidates who could unseat California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in the state’s second recall election in history, Elder suggested that venture capitalists have the right to ask women whether and when they intend to have children as a way to “protect” their “investment.”

“Are there legitimate business reasons for a venture capitalist to ask a female entrepreneur whether she intends to have children? Hell, yes,” Elder wrote in his 2002 book.

But the man believed to be Newsom’s top contender didn’t stop there.

In several other sections of “Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests That Divide America,” Elder suggested that women who choose to have children are not “dedicated” to their jobs and are unable to give an “all-hands-on-deck commitment” to work. In another passage, Elder went after former acting Massachusetts governor Jane Swift (R) for taking on the new role after giving birth to twins, claiming that “to tell women they can run a state, have family and children, and be equally attentive to all — is a lie.”

Elder’s comments were first reported by Media Matters last week and gained traction in recent days.

Elder, who did not immediately respond to messages from The Washington Post late Thursday, stood by his comments when questioned by a reporter during a Wednesday news conference.

“Government should not be intruding into the relationship between employer and employee,” he told a reporter with the Associated Press.

Elder’s remarks resurfaced weeks before Californians take to the polls Sept. 14 to decide whether Newsom should be ousted from his seat a year early. The news dovetailed with public statements from Elder’s former fiancee, who said he had once showed her a gun during a heated 2015 argument, the Associated Press reported. Elder, 69, has denied the claims and referred to the allegations as “salacious,” adding that he grew up in a high-crime part of Los Angeles.

“I have never brandished a gun at anyone,” Elder tweeted. “I grew up in South Central; I know exactly how destructive this type of behavior is. It’s not me, and everyone who knows me knows it’s not me.”

Elder, who announced July 12 that he was joining the gubernatorial race, has hosted a conservative radio show titled “The Larry Elder Show” since 1993. He has also found himself in several controversies after making incendiary remarks during TV appearances, newspaper interviews and in social media posts.

A day after the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Elder minimized police brutality against Black Americans during an appearance on Fox News’s “Hannity,” saying, “If these protesters had been Black, the likelihood is it would’ve been worse because the police would’ve been more reluctant, more hesitant to use force against Black people than White people.”

In July, Elder told the Los Angeles Times that racism no longer exists in the United States. The newspaper also reported Elder has previously suggested some “women were too unattractive to be sexually assaulted.”

Under a section titled “Sexism in Funding?” in his 2002 book, Elder wrote that many professional athletes sign contracts preventing them from “engaging in hazardous conduct not related to their sport” to protect the team’s investment. He used that as an argument to support the right of venture capitalists to ask women if and when they plan to have children.

Several paragraphs later, Elder went further suggesting “regular ol’ employers” should be allowed to ask those same questions.

“Many businessmen and businesswomen deal with this reality every day: Will the woman who applies as a sales manager give me enough steady, committed time on the job to warrant my investment?” Elder wrote.

He added: “Are you dedicated? Will you give me 24/7?”

Elder went on to say that laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) “increase the cost of hiring women, and the expense is passed on to consumers.”

In another section titled “Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift Says Women Can Have It All — With a Little Help From the State,” Elder criticized Swift for remaining in office after giving birth to twins in 2001. Elder claimed Swift made arrangements to continue running the state from the hospital under her doctor’s bed-rest orders, adding that Swift traveled 2½ hours to see her family on the weekend and “perhaps once or twice during the week.”

Elder’s book comments prompted backlash from fellow politicians, including former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, who is another top GOP contender in the recall race.

“Every undecided voter — pay attention,” Faulconer tweeted about Elder’s remarks. “These are not California values. These are not Republican, Democrat, or independent values. Larry Elder is doubling down on his attacks on working women and California families.”

Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic gold medalist who is one of the 46 recall candidates and among the most prominent transgender women in the country, also went after Elder on social media regarding his comments about pregnant women in the workforce.

“This is outrageous and speaks volumes about the type of person he is,” Jenner tweeted. “We need to protect the privacy of all women, not abuse them.”