It started with a bit of Twitter sarcasm, mocking a statement by Planned Parenthood.
“Breaking News: Arizona women breathe different air and drink different water than men. Because science,” tweeted Matthew Benson, spokesperson for the Arizona Public Service-funded Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, last night.
Then, it devolved, the way spats on Twitter inevitably do when someone says something tone deaf, or ill informed, or both.
Benson’s tweet was responding to Planned Parenthood’s endorsement of Proposition 127 and its statement that “women are disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of air and water pollution.”
This morning, State Representative Athena Salman, a Democrat from Tempe, fired back:
“Breaking News: @MatthewWBenson is the new spokesman for Arizona women. Because men.”
She then tweeted a link to an article in the Fordham Environmental Law Review, which explained, in part, the physiological reasons why environmental pollution affects women more than men. According to that article, women tend to be smaller and have higher proportions of body fat, where environmental pollutants accumulate more intensely.
At the heart of the matter is Prop 127, the fiercely controversial ballot initiative that Benson gets paid to oppose. Salman supports the initiative, which is sponsored by California billionaire Tom Steyer. Pinnacle West, the parent company of Arizona Public Service, has spent at least $11 million opposing it.
Proposition 127 calls for Arizona to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2030.
Benson pushed back, “I wonder if you have thoughts on how women in poverty – including single mothers – are impacted by regressive increases in their utility bill.” As of this writing, Salman has yet to respond to his most recent tweet.
Other Twitter users took Benson to task for his comments.
"And here I thought you were just clueless about #CleanEnergy," tweeted the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter. "@PPArizona cares about people, their health, and the health of our communities. I am proud to support them and applaud them for saying #YESon127."
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Asked for comment, Benson told Phoenix New Times, “I think men and women breathe the same air and drink the same water, end of story.”
When pressed to answer whether he disputed Planned Parenthood’s statement that women are disproportionately affected by environmental pollution, he said, “I’m not going to claim to be an expert in that area of science.”
Proponents of Proposition 127 suggest, in part, that it will reduce air pollution, while research funded by APS argues that the impact from 127 on air pollution would be “minuscule.”