After a group of mostly female Democrats called on former state Representative Joe Delorenzo to resign from his post as Second Vice Chair of the state Democratic Party yesterday, Delorenzo took to the airwaves and belittled one of the letter writer’s allegations that she was sexually harassed at the State House, which came to light earlier this week.
Speaking to John DePetro on WADK in Newport, Delorenzo dismissed Rep. Teresa Tanzi’s explosive allegation of sexual harassment at the State House, saying the accusation fits a progressive narrative.
“My first reaction is it goes right into the narrative that the far left wants portrayed out there,” Delorenzo told DePetro. “Everything is sexual harassment today. If a woman walks into my office and I say to her, ‘boy, you look really nice in that dress,’ – sexual harassment. A woman walks in that I know – and we do this all the time, John – put your arm around her, giver her a kiss on the cheek – sexual harassment, sexual harassment.”
Tanzi, according to the Providence Journal, said, “I have been told sexual favors would allow my bills to go further.” The allegation caused House Speaker Nick Mattiello to immediately require sexual harassment training prior to the next legislative session.
As did many Republicans yesterday, Delorenzo implored Tanzi to name the person who she says harassed her. “If that happened to Teresa Tanzi, name him,” Delorenzo said. “Tell us who it is. If she’s making that accusation against someone, point him out.” He added, “”And if there’s a bill that did pass and you did, we want to know that, too.”
He said Tanzi may have misconstrued a compliment for sexual harassment.
“Someone might have said ‘Teresa, your hair looks good’ and I’ve met her maybe twice in my life ‘Oh, you’ve harassed me.’ But as far as going out there and saying ‘oh, for sexual favors, we’ll pass your bill.’ Eh, I don’t think so.”
Tanzi could not be immediately reached for comment on Delorenzo’s characterization of her allegations.
Tolulope Kevin Olasanoye, executive director of the Rhode Island Democratic Party, who is out of town at a Democratic National Committee meeting, said he has heard about Delorenzo’s AM radio remarks, but has not had the chance to listen yet.
“Joe Delorenzo does not speak for the party,” Olasanoye said. “There is no place for sexual harassment anywhere in our society. Certainly the chairman, the speaker of the House and everyone else associated with the Democratic Party do not condone that type of behavior.”
Olasaoye said he will comment further after listening to the interview.
Delorenzo said he never witnessed sexual harassment at the State House when he was a legislator representing Cranston and Warwick in the 1970’s and 1980s. “I spent 20 years in that building,” Delorenzo said. “I never saw anybody proposition any woman in that house and say ‘hey, you do this…’
A group of mostly female elected officials suggested in a letter yesterday that Delorenzo should resign. A Change.org petition has also been created calling for his resignation.
Delorenzo declined to comment to RI Future yesterday. The AM radio interview was first highlighted on Twitter by Brad Hevenor, a critic of Delorenzo’s.