MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Tennessee gubernatorial candidate Diane Black said pornography is the "root cause" of school shootings.
Black made the comments during a listening session about the spike in school shootings with a group of ministers in Clarksville, Tennessee.
"Pornography. It's available. It's available on the shelf when you walk in the grocery store. Yeah, you have to reach up to get it, but there's pornography there," she said.
When asked for a response, Black's office doubled down on the answer with the following statement:
Black has served as a U.S. Representative in Tennessee since 2011.
Despite backlash from the comments, a local mental health expert said the congresswoman isn't entirely wrong.
Katy Leech, a mental health counselor in Bartlett, said school shootings happen for a myriad of reasons.
While there's no research linking porn to school shootings, Leech said it could be a contributing factor in some cases.
"We see that extended use of pornography leads to the objectification of people, especially women, so basically what that is, is a desensitization to the humanity of other people," Leech said. "We also see with pornography that there are violent types of pornography, and so you see a glorification of power or control or instant gratification."
Political analyst Michael Nelson doesn't believe Black's comments will hurt her race for governor, but he said she may be more careful with what she says to audiences in the future.
"I can't imagine this is going to make much difference between now and the actual voting in August," Nelson said. "You may think you're speaking to a small group of people in private. If you're in the public eye, if you're running for office, you've got to assume 24/7 that everything you say is you're speaking to the world. Somebody's in there recording it."
Black addressed the controversy on Wednesday afternoon, saying "Liberals always blame guns, but it's much bigger than that. The breakdown of family values and social structures is clearly a contributing factor to violence in our communities."
WMC5 reached out to Black's campaign for an interview but did not hear back.