ALBANY – Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell (D-Manhattan) told a female Democratic colleague to “grow a pair, honey” during a committee meeting earlier this week after she declined to vote his preferred way.
O’Donnell had objected to the legislative sleight of hand used by Codes Committee Chair Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) to bring up a controversial bill on seizing guns from domestic violence scenes for a second time in two weeks.
The Manhattan Democrat then got up from his chair to leave the meeting – loudly whispering the sexist comment to Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz (D-Queens) on his way out, video footage unearthed by NY1 shows.
“I don’t care who is in here. I am a woman of color. I am an attorney. And to be spoken to like that by a man, by a white man, in front of people – it is not ok,” Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz (D-Queens) told colleagues before leaving the meeting herself.
The sexist remark by O’Donnell follows other allegations this year of misbehavior by Democratic members in a legislative chamber historically plagued by sexual harassment and misconduct despite some recent steps towards increased accountability.
“If I were in his shoes, I would apologize to Assemblymember Cruz,” Dinowitz said Friday.
O’Donnell and Cruz did not provide comment.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Cruz have declined to join calls for Assemblyman Juan Ardila (D-Queens) to resign following allegations of sexual misconduct by two women.
“The allegations that were made are serious and the behavior that was described was totally unacceptable. But I think that’s a decision that Juan and his constituents have to think about themselves,” Heastie told reporters at the Capitol on March 15.
But the Bronx powerbroker has sidelined Ardila on important matters like allocating funding to local community groups while he continues fighting for his political life after initially dismissing the accusations he no longer denies.
It remains unclear whether Heastie has made any similar moves with Assemblyman Pat Burke (D-Buffalo), who faces sexual harassment allegations that include showing pornographic video of his underage son and his girlfriend having sex – charges Burke has emphatically denied.
The Assembly launched an investigation after the accusations became public in mid-April, The Buffalo News reported at the time.
While less serious in nature, the crude comment by O’Donnell is fueling calls for Assembly leaders to take a more aggressive approach to sexual harassment and misconduct, especially considering the longtime reputation of the chamber as a bastion of misbehavior that led to historic legislation on sexual harassment under Heastie.
“Harassment and discrimination always, always happens on a scale,” Erica Vladimer, co-founder of the Sexual Harassment Working Group established by former legislative staffers, said.
“But no matter where any instance of harassment or discrimination happens on that scale, it needs to be addressed … when the smaller things are not addressed, that then allows this culture of nothing being addressed to then continue where even greater harm is caused.”
A Heastie spokesman did not provide comment Friday about what consequences, if any, O’Donnell might face.