LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan lawmaker alleged Tuesday that a fellow legislator sexually harassed her during a Capitol orientation 14 months ago, coming forward a week after a young female reporter said the same senator made a sexist comment to her before a group of high school boys.
Sen. Mallory McMorrow, a Royal Oak Democrat, filed a complaint against Republican Sen. Peter Lucido. She said she introduced herself to him at a training session two days after she defeated an incumbent in the November 2018 election.
“He reached out to shake my hand, and with the other hand, held very low on my back, with fingers grazing my hip and upper rear,” she wrote in a statement that was included with her complaint. “He asked what my name was and where I was from. After a bit of back and forth, he asked, ‘Who’d you run against?’ I responded, ‘I beat Marty Knollenberg.’ At that moment, still holding his hand on my low back, he looked me up and down, raised his eyebrows, and said, ‘I can see why.’”
McMorrow, whose allegation was first reported by Crain’s Detroit Business, told reporters the incident was “deflating” and that she felt like “a piece of meat. … It implied, ‘You won because of what you look like.’”
She said that during the sexual harassment training portion of the orientation for newly elected senators, Lucido posited different scenarios in which potential sexual harassment encounters could occur, saying: “The culture is what it (is) around here. We can’t change that.”
Lucido, 59, denied McMorrow’s sexual harassment allegation.
“I categorically deny this allegation, which I believe is completely untrue and politically motivated,” he said in a statement.
Last week, the Senate Business Office opened a probe into Lucido after a journalist reported that he told her that students from an all-boys Catholic school visiting the Capitol could “have a lot of fun” with her. The investigation was requested by the Senate’s Republican and Democratic leaders.
Lucido issued a brief apology for the “misunderstanding” with Michigan Advance’s Allison Donahue but later said he was misquoted.
McMorrow said she did not report Lucido 14 months ago because she had just been elected for the first time — to a district she had flipped — and had to make friends and build legislative relationships to do her job. After reading Donahue’s story, however, she decided to come forward.
“In that moment, I felt a bit of responsibility for not having said something sooner because I made the calculus for my own reasons and for my career,” McMorrow said. “It just made me think this week how many other women make the same calculus and don’t say something and allow it to keep happening.”
She said she also spoke out because Lucido initially apologized for offending Donahue then later said he was misquoted and accused her of interpreting the remark “how she wanted to take it.”
“That’s wasn’t OK for me,” said McMorrow, who said she debated just filing a complaint without going public. “But I felt like it was important to talk about because it is a pattern of behavior. I wanted to help showcase that, too, to help lend credibility to her story so that this doesn’t happen to anybody else.”
A spokeswoman for Republican Senate Majority Mike Shirkey said he will hire outside lawyers to assist the Senate Business Office in its probe of Lucido.
“Any allegation like this is taken very seriously. The majority leader wants to make sure the investigation is thorough, that multiple entities have had a chance to review (so) the nonpartisan counsel along with the outside counsel can be supported and provided additional expertise in reviewing these allegations,” said Amber McCann. “It’s to the benefit of the individuals who have come forward.”
Across the country, The Associated Press has tallied about 100 state lawmakers who have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct or harassment since January 2017, including 38 who have resigned or been expelled from office.
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