Josh Hawley Missouri AG
Washington CNN  — 

Missouri’s attorney general, who is a Republican candidate running for US Senate, is facing criticism for a December speech in which he blamed the sexual revolution for human trafficking.

“The sexual revolution has led to exploitation of women on a scale that we would never have imagined,” Josh Hawley said in a December 7 speech to Christian pastors at an event hosted by the Missouri Renewal Project.

The Kansas City Star was the first to report on Hawley’s remarks. His campaign posted his full speech Wednesday on its YouTube page.

“You know what I’m talking about, the 1960s, 1970s, it became commonplace in our culture among our cultural elites, Hollywood, and the media to talk about – to denigrate the biblical truth about husband and wife, man and woman,” Hawley said.

Hawley argued that there’s a “human trafficking crisis” because “our culture has completely lost its way.”

“We must also deliver a message to our culture that the false gospel of ‘anything goes’ ends in this road of slavery,” Hawley said.

Hawley is one of several Republican candidates hoping to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. Hawley, who announced his candidacy last October, has the support of President Donald Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence even personally called him back in July to encourage him to jump into the race.

Kelli Ford, a spokeswoman for Hawley’s campaign, stood by the candidate’s remarks when asked for comment, adding that he’s aggressively cracked down on sex trafficking since taking office last year.

“Let’s get serious: sex trafficking is driven by male demand and the subjugation of women. In the 1960s and ’70s, it became OK for Hollywood and the media to treat women as objects for male gratification. And that demeaning view of women has helped fuel harassment, inequality, and yes, sex trafficking,” she said in a statement. “As Josh often says, to end sex trafficking, it’s not enough to put the criminals behind bars; you have to change the culture of male exploitation of women.”

McCaskill, who was first elected in 2006, responded to Hawley’s remarks on Twitter Wednesday, taking aim at Hawley’s education from Stanford and Yale Law.

“I didn’t go to one of those fancy private schools, but the history I learned in public schools (and) Mizzou taught me that the evidence of trafficking of women for sex goes back to before 2000 BC. It didn’t begin with women’s rights and the birth control pill,” the Democratic senator wrote.

Hawley fired back on Twitter at McCaskill, telling her to “fly commercial home from your next Hollywood fundraiser (and) ask people what Hollywood is doing to our culture.”

“I’m for contraception (and) women working. I’m against exploitation of women promoted for decades by Hollywood (and) culture. Have to change that to stop trafficking,” he said.

Left leaning group EMILY’s List and progressive super PAC American Bridge jumped on the candidate’s remarks.

“Josh Hawley’s ridiculous attempt to appear like he cares at all about women’s rights would be funny if it wasn’t so revolting,” American Bridge spokesperson Allison Teixeira Sulier said in statement Thursday. “From his work to restrict access to birth control to his disgusting comments victim-blaming women affected by sex trafficking, Josh Hawley is no friend to Missouri women, and they will hold him accountable.”

“That is disgustingly false,” Ford said over email in response to Sulier’s statement. “That is a complete misrepresentation of what Josh said. He is calling out Hollywood for normalizing men exploiting women. In that same speech, Josh challenged every man to take responsibility for his actions and be part of the solution.”

The attention on Hawley’s remarks comes after another GOP Missouri Senate candidate, Courtland Sykes, faced criticism over a statement he wrote in which he called feminists “she devils” and said he expects his fiancée to have dinner prepared for him every night.

McCaskill is one of the vulnerable Democrats facing a tough re-election race this November in a state Trump won by double digits in the 2016 election.

CNN’s Juana Summers contributed to this report.