Lansing, Michigan — A Republican state lawmaker will be subject to a sexual harassment investigation for telling a young female reporter she could have "a lot of fun" with a group of high school boys visiting the Michigan Capitol, legislative leaders said Wednesday.
State Senator Pete Lucido, 59, of Macomb County's Shelby Township, issued a brief apology earlier in the day, after the Michigan Advance journalist published a report detailing their interaction outside the Senate chamber on Tuesday.
Allison Donahue, 22, said she asked Lucido for an interview to discuss his participation in a Facebook group that was shut down after some members advocated violence against female Democrats. He said he could talk after honoring roughly 30 students from De La Salle Collegiate, an all-boys Catholic high school in suburban Detroit from which Lucido graduated.
"You should hang around! You could have a lot of fun with these boys, or they could have a lot of fun with you," he said. The teens laughed, according to Donahue's first-person account in the Advance, a nonprofit news site that covers politics and policy.
She wrote that his comments were "belittling and came from a place of power." After the interview, she said, she told him his comment was unprofessional and that he would not have said it to a male reporter or an older journalist.
Lucido, she said, assured her he meant no harm and said it can be awkward for students at an all-boys school to interact with girls - referencing how he didn't know how to act around women when he went to college.
"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 said. "It was nothing disingenuous. It was no harm."
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Clarklake Republican, and Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, a Flint Democrat, asked the Senate Business Office to investigate whether the comment amounted to sexual harassment.
"Sexual harassment has no place in the Michigan Senate," they wrote. "We take these allegations seriously and trust that you will take appropriate action to resolve this matter." It wasn't clear what type of punishment could be levied.
Lucido, who is married and has three children, initially told the Detroit Free Press he didn't feel he owed the reporter an apology and that the quotes were taken out of context and had been blown out of proportion. But later Wednesday, he changed course.
"I apologize for the misunderstanding yesterday and for offending Allison Donahue," Lucido said in his statement. He didn't apologize directly to Donahue.
In another about-face, he later alleged to WDIV-TV in Detroit that he had been misquoted. He said he told her, "We're going on the (Senate) floor to have some fun. You're welcome to join us."
But Sam Inglot, Deputy Director of Progress Michigan, told CBS Lansing affiliate WLNS-TV, "There's no other way to take these than as sexually charged comments. Peter Lucido is a remnant of a toxic masculine culture that exists not just in government but in society in general. That is a culture that we need to combat."
Ananich, the minority leader, told the station Lucido's comments were "pathetic."
"Trying to show off in front of teenage boys and using a reporter as an example. That's not how men behave. That's how cowards behave," Ananich said.
Lucido said this month that he was weighing whether to run for governor in 2022, when Democrat Gretchen Whitmer will be up for reelection. He chairs three committees and serves as majority whip.