The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Michigan state Senate requested a sexual harassment investigation Wednesday into a Republican senator after a female reporter said he remarked that male high school students could “have a lot of fun” with her.
In a letter to the director of the non-partisan Senate Business Office, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Democratic Minority Leader Jim Ananich requested an investigation of the reporter’s allegations against Senate Majority Whip Peter Lucido “promptly and thoroughly.”
“Sexual harassment has no place in the Michigan Senate. We take these allegations very seriously and trust that you will take appropriate action to resolve this matter,” the leaders wrote.
The requested probe into Lucido comes as he faces backlash after the reporter, Allison Donahue of the Michigan Advance, published a firsthand account of the Tuesday exchange at the state Capitol.
According to her narrative, Donahue, in the process of reporting, had approached Lucido to ask him a question when the senator, who was standing in front of a group of boys from his high school alma mater, told her he would speak with her “after he was finished honoring the group of students.”
“As I turned to walk away, (Lucido) asked, ‘You’ve heard of De La Salle, right?'” Donahue wrote, referring to the private, all-boys Catholic school in the state. “I told him I hadn’t.”
“‘It’s an all boys’ school,'” Lucido said, according to Donahue. “‘You should hang around! You could have a lot of fun with these boys, or they could have a lot of fun with you.'”
Lucido’s office has not responded to multiple requests for comment from CNN on Wednesday and Thursday.
On Wednesday, the senator apologized for what he described as a “misunderstanding” with Donahue, but later that day he told reporters that her account of their interaction was “not accurate.”
“I said, ‘We’re going on the floor to have some fun. You’re welcome to join us.’ This thing about what she interpreted, sexually or otherwise, it’s unfortunate. It really is. Truly unfortunate,” he said.
Donahue said the boys “burst into an Old Boys’ Network-type of laughter” as she walked away, adding she felt she’d “been the punchline of their ‘locker room’ talk.” She noted that at 22 years old, she’s among the youngest reporters at the state Capitol, and Lucido is among state Senate leadership.
Donahue told CNN on Wednesday that the senator’s comments, which she called a “sexual innuendo,” were meant to intimidate her into not doing her job, saying she “also saw it as a scare tactic to get me to leave with my tail between my legs and leave without asking the questions I was there to ask.”
Democratic Minority Leader Ananich blasted Lucido in an interview with CNN on Wednesday, saying his colleague’s comments are “extremely inappropriate and outright disgusting.”
If Lucido is found to be in violation of the chamber’s harassment policies, he could be subject to disciplinary action by the majority leader, including a hearing that could eventually result in him being “reprimanded, censured, or expelled” from the Senate, according to Senate rules.