ADEL, Iowa — A Dallas County lawmaker is accused of using a gay slur following a heated public forum over the weekend.
On Saturday, (R) Representative Ralph Watts held a public forum at the Adel Public Library to answer legislative questions or concerns, but those in attendance say it quickly spiraled out of control.
“I felt like he was not there to answer questions. He was there to fulfill an obligation to hold a public forum,” says Adel resident Bryce Smith.
Those in attendance say the long-time representative was rude, condescending, and degrading towards residents. The hour-long forum was recorded live on Facebook. The cell phone video shows Watts refusing to answer a question from someone who lives outside of his district. During another portion of the conversation, an audience member commented on the topic of abortion and Planned Parenthood, saying, “if you think someone has the right to do that because they have a uterus, then you mother should have taught you have to keep your legs closed.” Following the comment, Watts appears to smile and laugh in the video, to which an audience member asks Watts, “why are you laughing?”
However, the conversation eventually turned deeply personal for Smith. His husband was recording the forum while Smith was at work. Watts addressed the camera asking Smith’s husband asking where Smith was by using a gay slur.
“It is a derogatory term. There are multiple meanings for the term,” says Smith. “I have thick skin and I expect to run into some of that. Not everyone is going to agree with someone’s lifestyle. I was kind of disheartened and disrespected by an elected official, especially someone who represents me.”
Smith ran against Watts last November of the House District 19 seat.
“Knowing him and knowing his tones, it didn’t surprise me, but it was an attacking tone,” said Smith.
On Monday evening, One Iowa Executive Director Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel issued a statement saying, “Homophobic slurs should never be used, especially by an elected official. We must continue dialogue on inclusion and civility with an understanding of how slurs like this impact real Iowans. Respect is a non-partisan Iowa value, and leaders in our communities must model civil discourse. Bryce Smith deserves an apology from Rep. Watts.”
Channel 13 asked requested an interview with Watts but he declined. However, Watts did tell Channel 13’s Jodi Whitworth the allegations are untrue. Watts says the reason he called Smith the term was to mock his performance while on the campaign trail.