A Michigan lawmaker on Tuesday filed a sexual harassment complaint against the state senator who last week made national headlines when he told a young reporter that a group of high school boys "could have a lot of fun" with her.
Sen. Mallory McMorrow, a Democrat, said Republican Sen. Peter Lucido touched her inappropriately and made a degrading comment during an orientation gathering for new senators on Nov. 8, 2018.
After the incident, McMorrow — a new senator who had ousted an incumbent Republican — said she feared becoming a political target and the potential consequences outweighed what she’d gain by reporting it. But after hearing the story of Michigan Advance reporter Allison Donahue, she felt compelled to come forward.
"In watching interviews she gave afterward, [Donahue] described how she felt in the exact same way I felt in November 2018," McMorrow said. "I felt a wave of guilt and responsibility. I'd made calculations not to say anything at the time so as not to risk my potential ability to be effective in my new role."
In a complaint filed to the Michigan State Business Office, McMorrow said that she introduced herself to Lucido during a break after a sexual harassment training. Crain's Detroit Business first reported her allegation.
"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 said in her complaint.
According to McMorrow, Lucido asked her who she was, where she was from, and the two engaged in a "bit of back and forth." He then wanted to know who she had run against to represent Oakland County's 13th District.
She told him she had beaten former Republican Sen. Marty Knollenberg. With his hand still on her lower back, McMorrow reported that Lucido looked her up and down, "raised his eyebrows, and said, 'I can see why.'"
"In that moment, my heart sank. I felt clenched and small. In that moment, this man looked at me with little interest to my background or experience, and I felt nothing more than an object," she said. "The implication, clearly, was 'you won because of what you look like.'"
Lucido did not respond to BuzzFeed News's request for comment, but he told the Detroit Free Press that he "categorically" denies the new allegation, which he described as "completely untrue and politically motivated."
The Republican also pushed back against Donahue's account, saying he was misquoted and his comments taken out of context when he told the 22-year-old reporter after a session at the state capitol that a visiting group of high school boys could have a lot of fun with her.
Last week, Donahue wrote a firsthand account of her experience trying to interview the senator. Lucido was with a group of about 20 students from his alma mater, De La Salle Collegiate, and told the reporter he would catch up with her afterward.
As she turned to walk away, the senator asked if she had heard of the school. The reporter said she had not.
"It's an all-boys school," he told her. “You should hang around. You could have a lot of fun with these boys, or they could have a lot of fun with you.”
Donahue waited about 30 minutes, asked the senator her question, and then confronted him about the inappropriate remark. Her story went viral.
In her complaint, McMorrow said that although she was shocked by Lucido's behavior, she "laughed it off, walked away, and sat back down."
Inside, though, she said she felt "reduced to a piece of meat."
The senators continued their sexual harassment orientation, where Lucido reportedly "posited different scenarios in which potential sexual harassment encounters could occur."
According to McMorrow, he argued, "The culture is what it is around here. We can't change that."
Rosemary Bayer, another Michigan senator, said on Twitter that she "personally witnessed" some of Lucido's behavior and stands behind McMorrow. In an interview with Crain's, the Democrat said she saw Lucido "holding McMorrow for an extended period" as they talked.
"They were standing there talking together and his arm was … reaching around her back," Bayer told the outlet. "This is the age of consent, right? You have to have permission. You can't be touching people."
Michigan's Senate Business Office launched a sexual harassment investigation into Lucido's behavior on Jan. 15, a day after the Michigan Advance published Donahue's account. A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey told the Detroit Free Press that the Senate is bringing on outside attorneys to take part in the investigation.
Over the past week, McMorrow said she watched as Lucido offered an apology on Twitter that blamed Donahue for being "offended" without taking responsibility for his actions, then alleged he was misquoted.
"We have to stop excusing behavior that's done intentionally to belittle and minimize others so long as people are 'effective,'" she said. "In coming forward today, I hope my report will put an end to such behavior."
Then she addressed Donahue, writing, "I'm sorry for not coming forward sooner."