Updated, 2:46 p.m. 1/15/19, with additional comments
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) on Wednesday called sexist comments state Sen. Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.) made to a reporter this week “very unacceptable.” Michigan and national media have since reported on the story and national figures, including U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), have condemned the remarks.
On Tuesday, Michigan Advance reporter Allison Donahue tried to interview Lucido about a violent anti-Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Facebook group first reported by the Detroit Metro Times. He was with a group of De La Salle Collegiate schoolboys and said, “It’s an all boys’ school. “You should hang around! You could have a lot of fun with these boys, or they could have a lot of fun with you.”
When Donahue told Lucido: “I thought the comment that you made was unprofessional in front of the group of boys, saying that I would have fun with them, I don’t know what you were insinuating, but— ”
Lucido cut her off and said, “De La Salle, I went there, and it’s an all male school and anytime we had dances we had to invite the girls over for dancing or socializing, it’s very awkward for a lot of these boys,” he said. “So if you took it any way other than that. … The fact that they have Regina school, an all girls’ school, get together. They do this, and they have dances and they have social days. It was awkward for me when I went to college and I first met a woman, I didn’t even know how to act around a woman.”
Lucido added: “I said it to an all girls’ school last week, ‘How would you like to have all the boys from the Senate come over?’” he recounted. “It was nothing disingenuous. It was no harm.”
He is has a leadership role in the GOP caucus as the Senate majority whip. Lucido also erves as chair of both the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety, Advice and Consent committees, and the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, and is a member of the Senate Elections and Oversight committees.
Donahue wrote about why she decided to report on the incident.
“The situation made me embarrassed, it made me feel small and it made me want to walk away from the Capitol and tell my editor that Lucido wasn’t available to comment.
“I’ve stayed quiet before,” she continued. “I’ve been the subject of locker room talk before, and laughed it off with all the boys in the room. I’ve been convinced not to report an instance of sexual assault because of the trouble the man would get into, and I never said anything. There have been too many moments, big and small, that I wish I would have told someone or spoken up about.”
Lucido did not talk to reporters for comment and did not do an appearance on WILS radio with Dave Akerly Wednesday morning.* He has not reached out to the Michigan Advance or Donahue directly and only issued a short statement on Twitter, labeling it a “misunderstanding.”
I apologize for the misunderstanding yesterday and for offending Allison Donahue.
— Sen. Peter J. Lucido (@SenPeterJLucido) January 15, 2020
On Tuesday, Lucido posted on Facebook about the visit with De La Salle.
De La Salle’s football team is embroiled in a violent hazing scandal with some students saying they were held down by players in a locker room and abused with a broomstick. The coach at the Macomb County school has been fired.
Shirkey spoke with reporters after Senate session Wednesday morning. The Advance asked him if he had a comment on Lucido’s remarks to Donahue.
“I do. I take this very seriously and I intend to have a very intense and lengthy private conversation with the senator as soon as we’re done with the session this morning,” Shirkey said. “If those words that recorded were accurate, it’s very unacceptable. And that’s all I got to say about it.”
The Advance asked Shirkey if he had any comment about the status of Lucido’s committee assignments or role in the caucus.
“That’s all I’ve got to say,” Shirkey responded.
State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) talked to reporters after the Senate adjourned, blasting Lucido for “disgusting things” he said about Donahue.
Ananich said it was “sort of in a long line of things that have been said, when the senator [Lucido] participated in a Facebook page that called for violence against women legislators. He’s had issues with people who have come before his committee, especially women, for confirmation [in the Advice and Consent Committee].
“I’m a firm believer that you know you are what you do. And you are who you associate with. I think it’s very clear who Pete Lucido is. He had an opportunity when he had some high school boys from, I believe, De La Salle here. Their motto is, ‘Building boys; making men.’ He had an opportunity to show them what a real man acts like and talks like. Instead, he reverted back to his days of getting beat up and put in lockers and trying to show off in front of kids.”
Ananich said he believes the boys left and “laughed at” Lucido and “were ashamed of his behavior.” He added he was “amped up over this.”
“That’s not how we’re supposed to act as senators; that’s not how we’re supposed to act as men, as leaders in this state, this country, this community.”
Ananich also commented on Lucido’s response.
‘What the statement, his apology was basically saying was, ‘I’m sorry you realize I’m a jerk.’ That’s basically what his apology said. And I think everyone whose profession is to report the news should be offended that he treated someone that way. And I think anybody in this building should be offended,” he said.*
Several other political figures condemned Lucido’s remarks, with Dingell writing on Twitter that “we must stand up to sexist, violent hate speech everywhere- especially in government institutions.”
— Rep. Debbie Dingell (@RepDebDingell) January 15, 2020
State House Minority Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) said that “Sen. Lucido purposefully generates this kind of controversy because it makes him feel important, and helps stave off his waning relevancy in a society where women and people of color are breaking down barriers and claiming their rightful seat at the table. Humiliating women who represent a threat to you is a cliché tactic to avoid responsibility for immaturity.
“Ms. Donahue’s courage to both call him out and write her piece on the experience are a testament to the changing times, and a reminder that those who are incapable of growing up and admitting their flaws will be left behind.”
State Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) called on the subscription-only MIRS newsletter to rescind Lucido’s honor of “2019 Legislator of the Year.”
I called @MIRSnews to ask them to rescind Senator Lucido as 2019 Legislator of the Year. It's time we start considering the totality of the job for people in power – not just how many bills you can pass. This behavior is a pattern. How powerful people treat others matters. #mileg https://t.co/5LtaxXJr9r
— Sen. Mallory McMorrow (@MalloryMcMorrow) January 15, 2020
The liberal group Progress Michigan also slammed Lucido’s comments in a statement.
“State Senator Lucido is the personification of toxic masculinity and a disgrace to our state,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “Lucido rabidly supported President Trump even after his comments about ‘grabbing women by the p***y’, making these comments as predictable as they are disgusting. We’d call on Lucido to apologize but we know that for men like him those apologies are often hollow and do nothing to change the culture of objectifying women, so instead we’ll encourage him to just keep his damn mouth shut and stop normalizing this harmful behavior.”