Photo/Illutration Mio Sugita, a Lower House member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is surrounded by reporters after a meeting with Hakubun Shimomura, chairman of the party’s Policy Research Council, on Sept. 30. (Kotaro Ebara)

A ruling party lawmaker known for making offensive remarks retracted her denials, admitted to saying that women lie about sexual violence, and offered an “apology” that heightened criticism against her.

Mio Sugita, a Lower House member of the Liberal Democratic Party, wrote in a post on her blog on Oct. 1, “After closely examining my comments at the time through related people, I have confirmed that I made the statement that has been pointed out.”

During a closed meeting of LDP lawmakers on Sept. 25, Sugita, 53, said that “women can lie as much as they want” about sexual violence, according to an attendee.

She uttered the offensive remark after criticizing plans to commission a private organization to run a program that would assist victims of sexual violence, namely former “comfort women,” a euphemism for those who were forced to have sex with Japanese troops before and during World War II, the attendee said.

When asked about the comment by The Asahi Shimbun and other news outlets after the meeting, Sugita acknowledged that she mentioned a support group for former comfort women.

But she denied saying that women can easily lie about sexual violence.

Reports about her remark at the meeting triggered another round of criticism against her and calls for her resignation.

Sugita continued with her denial the following day, writing on her blog, “I did not say anything to the effect that is misogynistic.”

But in the latest post, she changed her statement.

“I want to correct my post. I apologize that (what I wrote) was not the case,” she wrote. “To those who got the impression from my comment that only women lie, I apologize for making them uncomfortable.”

Her roundabout apology poured more fuel on the fire of criticism.

Organizers of Flower Demonstration, a movement calling for the eradication of sexual violence, and others have started an online petition, demanding Sugita retract her remark, apologize and resign from the Diet.

More than 120,000 people had signed the petition as of the evening of Oct. 1.

Minori Kitahara, an author who led the petition, said victims of sexual violence and their supporters are “outraged once again” by Sugita’s explanation on her blog.

“It is a non-apology,” Kitahara said.

Sugita is no stranger to drawing anger.

She has in the past called the comfort women issue a fabrication.

In July 2018, she wrote in a monthly magazine that same sex couples “do not have children. In other words, they are unproductive.”

During a debate in the Diet in January this year, when an opposition party member asked about allowing separate family names for married couples, Sugita allegedly heckled at the lawmaker, “Don’t get married then.”

She was also recently sued after her Twitter account liked a number of posts that suggested a journalist, Shiori Ito, was lying about being raped by well-known male journalist.

Hakubun Shimomura, chairman of the LDP Policy Research Council, on Sept. 30 met Sugita and told her to explain the situation on her own again.

Other than that, the party appears eager to draw the curtain on the controversy as quickly as possible.

“She apologized. That’s enough,” an LDP official said. “The party has no plan to do anything about (Sugita).”

Jun Azumi, chairman of the Diet Affairs Committee of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said Sugita’s qualification as a lawmaker is called into question.

“Will the LDP do nothing and keep her as its member?” Azumi asked.

Sugita’s office said she has no plan to hold a news conference to talk about the issue.

Kitahara criticized Sugita for trying to end the controversy with the blog post.

“She doesn’t face the protest from the people,” Kitahara said. “If the LDP continues to do nothing, we will hold another emergency demonstration and keep protesting.”