Republican presidential candidate John Kasich on Friday delivered a lengthy response to a young woman asking about sexual assaults on college campuses that included the advice "don't go to parties where there's a lot of alcohol."
The remark was criticized by Planned Parenthood and a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee as blaming victims.
Kasich denied that, and said alcohol "obscures the ability of people to seek justice" after an attack. "That has nothing to do with saying that somebody who has been a victim is somehow responsible," Kasich said.
The Ohio governor's initial response to the St. Lawrence University student included talking about the importance of access to rape kits and a clear reporting process, adding, "I have two 16-year-old daughters, and I don't even like to think about it."
When she said, "it's something that I have to worry about," Kasich responded: "Well I would give you, I'd also give you one bit of advice, don't go to parties where there's a lot of alcohol. OK? Don't do that," Kasich said. The crowd applauded.
Dawn Laguens, vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement: "John Kasich's plan for combatting [sic] sexual assault as president is to blame women who go to parties."
Kasich told reporters in Utica Friday that was not his intent. His official Twitter account also reaffirmed that the only person responsible for a sexual assault is the assailant.
"I just said be careful where there's alcohol, and the reason why I worry about that is, it obscures the ability of people to seek justice," Kasich said. "Because then it gets to be about he said, she said, and there's alcohol and it creates an inability to find the truth."
"That has nothing to do with saying that somebody who has been a victim is somehow responsible," Kasich said. "I just want there to be justice, and I want to make sure that people are held accountable for the actions that they have when they prey on women."
Kasich held the town hall ahead of Tuesday's Republican primary. He has picked up endorsements from former New York Gov. George Pataki and the New York Daily News in recent days.
A new NBC 4 New York/ Wall Street Journal/ Marist poll found Kasich in second place in New York, with 25 percent support compared to 54 percent supporting Donald Trump.