Macomb lawmaker apologizes (sort of) amid outcry over sexist crack to reporter

January 15, 2020, 3:13 PM by  Alan Stamm

Attempted damage control Wednesday by state Sen. Peter Lucido, rebuked by a reporter for "comments that objectified and humiliated me in front of a group of young boys," is mocked by some critics as missing the point.

Lucido, a Republican from Shelby Township who is Senate majority whip, told Allison Donahue of Michigan Advance on Tuesday at the Capitol that he'd speak with her after hosting students from his all-male parochial high school, Warren De La Salle Collegiate. The 22-year-old journalist posts that he said:

"You should hang around! You could have a lot of fun with these boys, or they could have a lot of fun with you."

A half-hour later, she told the senator: "The comment that you made was unprofessional in front of the group of boys." His response, according to Donahue: 

 He assured me it was nothing personal and this is just how he talks to young women.

Coverage of her account, which spreads beyond Michigan to The New York Times, CNN, Newsweek, BuzzFeed and USA Today, sparks heavy social media chatter, including tweets from at least three Michigan politicians:

  • U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, thanks her "for bravely telling your story."

  • Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, decires "this unacceptable behavior" and praises Donahue "for being brave and speaking out about what happened to you. Basic respect & decency should be expected and guaranteed at the State Capitol."

  • Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids: "This is disconcerting coming from the chair of the committee in which most bills regarding violence against women are heard. His apology shows he just doesn't get it, or maybe he just doesn't care to."

Remarkably, even the Catholic school in Macomb County distances itself from the senator who graduated in 1978:

Lansing State Journal columnist Judy Putnam posts on Facebook: "Doing it in front of the students makes it worse in my opinion."

And Detroit Free Press pop culture critic Julie Hinds taps out a quick-turnaround column that puts "have a lot of fun" into context:

This dirty little leer of a comment is about sex and power and treating women as objects to be ogled and belittled. . . .

Although Lucido aimed his comments at a female journalist, the incident could have happened with a woman legislator or lobbyist or congressional staffer, and Lucido's snickering undertone would have been interpreted the same way.

As every woman reporter or columnist knows, angry responses from anonymous readers often include nasty words about your intelligence or your physical appearance or, more often than you can imagine, sexual slurs. . . .

Women hear the code all the time. We've spent decades, some of us, laughing nervously at it or maintaining a stony silence, or, if we know the man who's speaking well enough, snapping back at him to stop being ridiculous.

Well, the time is over for putting up with the culture that makes this OK, as millions of women have vowed ever since the culture-quaking rise of the #metoo and TimesUp movements.

In a similar vein, these are among more than 700 comments posted in seven hours under Lucido's reaction tweet:

Another reaction: "I believe you meant misogyny and not misunderstanding."

Freep reader Melissa Laney posts at its Facebook page: "He knew exactly the context he meant. And so do we. Pig."

At Metro Times, editor Lee Devito posts: "Kudos to Donahue for asking a man in power tough questions." 

Allison Donahue: "I have the confidence to stand up to him."
(Photo: Facebook/Michigan Advance)

The reporter who reluctantly became part of a story joins the social dialog to thank supporters and to share personal reflections in six tweets combined here:

"I didn’t want to stand up for myself after that [happened]. It's awkward and in rare cases is it ever taken well and the comments apologized for.

"But I’ve stayed silent before. So many times I have acted like I didn’t hear it, or I thought it was funny or I didn’t understand.

"And every time I walk away from that feeling disappointed in myself and guilty. This time easily could have been like that

"But I realized that I have the confidence to stand up to him, which isn’t always true for all women or even myself in some of the past situations I endured.

"I realized I had the support of my editor [Susan Demas], who was kind and understanding and respectful, which isn’t true of all bosses.

"I had a team back in the newsroom who talked it through with me and validated my emotions, which isn’t true of all workplaces.

"I also had a recorder already recording from the interview we just wrapped up. Not everyone walks away from these situations with proof & direct quotes.

"To be honest, if this was another time in my life, I probably would have let it slide. I’m not proud of that at all.

"But I knew that I had an opportunity to make some kind of change for women who don’t have the support like I had in that moment.

"It wasn’t the comment that necessarily knocked me off my feet, it was the fact that he knew he could get away with saying it.

"That’s not happening anymore."

Earlier today:

Reporter, 22, Calls Out Michigan GOP Senator, 59, for 'Saying Sexist Things'

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