U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry suggested Thursday that expanding the use of fossil fuels could help prevent sexual assault.
During an event sponsored by NBC News and Axios, Perry said using fossil fuels to power electricity can help villages in Africa and other developing regions.
Perry said he met a young girl on a trip to Africa who told him that electricity was important to her because she has to read by the light of a fire with noxious fumes.
He went on to say electricity also was important "from the standpoint of sexual assault. When the lights are on, when you have light that shines the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts."
From the standpoint "of how you really affect people's lives, fossil fuels ... play a role in that," Perry said. "I happen to think it's going to play a positive role."
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, the nation's largest environmental group, called on Perry to resign immediately.
"It was already clear that Rick Perry is unfit to lead the Department of Energy, but to suggest that fossil fuel development will decrease sexual assault is not only blatantly untrue, it is an inexcusable attempt to minimize a serious and pervasive issue," Brune said in a statement.
"Women, and particularly women of color, are among the most severely impacted by the climate crisis, and it is these same communities that are most at risk of sexual assault," Brune said.
The Department of Energy said Perry was only trying to highlight the ways electricity can improve the lives of people in Africa.
"The secretary was only making the important point that while many Americans take electricity for granted, there are people in other countries who are impacted by their lack of electricity," agency spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said.