Japan’s Tokyo Olympics chief apologised on Thursday for making sexist remarks that prompted outrage, but refused to resign and dug a deeper hole when he admitted he didn’t “speak to women much”.
Yoshiro Mori’s comments, in which he said women speak too much in meetings, are the latest headache for organisers already battling public disquiet about the pandemic-postponed Games.
The 83-year-old former prime minister triggered further criticism when he admitted “I don’t speak to women much” in a hastily organised press conference called to make his apology. And while Mori said his initial remarks were “inappropriate” he became defensive when questioned, insisting he had heard complaints that women speak at length.
Mori is reported to have said Wednesday that “board of directors meetings with many women take a lot of time”, according to the Asahi Shimbun daily.
“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 was quoted as saying.
Mori, who is known for his gaffes, did not dispute the report and told reporters he wanted to “retract” his comments.
“What I said… went against the spirit of the Olympics and Paralympics, and I recognise that it was inappropriate,” he said. “I will reflect deeply on this. I would also like to retract what I said. I would like to apologise to everyone who was offended.”
But he added that he was “not thinking about resigning” and insisted he was responding to comments he had heard about women speaking for too long.
“I hear those things often,” Mori said. “I don’t speak to women much recently, so I wouldn’t know,” he added. “You are asking all these questions because you wanted to write funny stories, aren’t you?”
The comments sparked a furious reaction in Japan, with the phrases “enough already,” “misogyny” and “we demand Yoshiro Mori resigns” all trending on Twitter.
The JOC decided last year to aim to have 40% female board members, but as of November, there are just five women among the board’s 24 members.
On Thursday, a popular Japanese comedian described those remarks as “incomprehensible” and said he would no longer take part in the Olympic torch relay.