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Michigan senator faces sexual harassment probe over comments to reporter

LANSING — State Sen. Peter Lucido is facing bipartisan criticism and an internal sexual harassment investigation after telling a 22-year-old female reporter she could have “a lot of fun” with a group of schoolboys visiting the Michigan Capitol. 

“Or they could have a lot of fun with you,” Lucido, a 59-year-old Shelby Township Republican, told Allison Donahue of the Michigan Advance on Tuesday, according to an account she published Wednesday morning on the progressive political news site. 

The story sent shockwaves through the Michigan Capitol, where Lucido holds powerful committee positions and has publicly expressed an interest in running for governor in 2022. 

On Wednesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, and Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, asked the Senate Business Office to launch a formal investigation into whether Lucido violated official sexual harassment policy. 

“Sexual harassment has no place in the Michigan Senate,” they wrote in a joint request letter to Senate Business Office Director Jordan Hankwitz. “We take these allegations very seriously and trust that you will take appropriate action to resolve this matter.”

The scope and scale of the investigation — along with possible ramifications for Lucido — are not clear. Hankwitz confirmed receipt of the request but declined to discuss additional details, saying his office is "unable to comment about an active investigation of any member or employee of the Senate."

The Detroit Free Press on Wednesday morning quoted Lucido as saying he felt his comments were taken out of context and did not warrant an apology. 

But Lucido issued a short statement later in the day: “I apologize for the misunderstanding yesterday and for offending Allison Donahue,” Lucido said.

Donahue sought to question Lucido about a since-deleted Facebook group where he reportedly made negative posts about Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

He brought up “fun” while asking the reporter to wait as he met with a group of students from his alma mater, De La Salle Collegiate, an all boys’ Catholic high school in Warren. 

“The teenagers burst into an Old Boys’ Network-type of laughter, and I walked away knowing that I had been the punchline of their ‘locker room’ talk,” Donahue recounted. “Except it wasn’t the locker room; it was the Senate chamber. And this isn’t high school. It’s my career.”

Lucido faced swift condemnation of Lucido from observers at the state Capitol and beyond. National outlets like the New York Post and Newsweek picked up the story. 

“Sen. Lucido purposefully generates this kind of controversy because it makes him feel important, and helps stave off his waning relevancy in a society where women and people of color are breaking down barriers and claiming their rightful seat at the table,” House Minority Leader Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills, said in a statement.

Talking to reporters earlier Wednesday, Shirkey called Lucido’s reported comments “unacceptable” but declined to say whether he would remove the lawmaker from committees or take other punitive actions.

“I take this very seriously and I intend to have a very and lengthy private conversation with the senator,” Shirkey said.

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