“When you increase the number of female executive members, if their speaking time isn’t restricted to a certain extent, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying,” he said, as told by an Agence France-Presse translation of an Asahi Shimbun story.
“Women are competitive,” Mori added. “When one person raises a hand, others think they need to speak up as well. That’s why everyone speaks.”
Some members of the committee reportedly laughed at Mori’s remarks, which were given in response to a question about the Japan Olympic committee’s goal of having more than 40 percent female members. Only five of 24 members were women as of November.
The comments drew condemnation on social media as well as from female members of his family and, in a news conference Thursday, Mori smiled several times while expressing “remorse.”
“Regarding my remark yesterday, it was going against the mentality of the Olympics and Paralympics,” Mori, 83, told reporters. “I would like to take back what I said, and apologize to those who were offended by my remarks. The Olympics and Paralympics represent the equality of both men and women, and I am thankful for the women athletes and staff.”
Mori, who served as Japan’s prime minister for a little more than a year in 2000 and 2001, has a history of offensive remarks. In January 2000, he recalled his first election campaign in 1969 with a joke about AIDS.
“When I was greeting farmers from my car, they all went into their homes. I felt like I had AIDS,” he said.
Later that year, Mori also insulted Americans while talking about their preparedness for the Y2K bug.
“When there is a blackout, the murderers always come out. It’s that type of society,” he said.
Mori’s political career was scandal-ridden even before he became prime minister, and two of his political appointees as prime minister resigned because of fundraising scandals. He also admitted to attending a wedding reception for the son of a former Yakuza boss. With his approval rating in single digits, Mori resigned as prime minister in April 2001.
Mori became chief of the Tokyo Games organizing committee in 2014 and almost immediately attracted negative attention in his home country by saying that figure skater Mao Asada — a silver medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and a two-time world champion — was “always falling at the most critical time.” He also said that Japanese ice dancers Chris Reed and Cathy Reed, the children of a Japanese mother and American father who were born and raised in the United States but renounced American citizenship to compete for Japan, were “not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics.”