Pennsylvania's secretary of health was misgendered multiple times in a press call.
Marty Griffin, a reporter from Pittsburgh radio station KDKA, referred to Dr. Rachel Levine as “sir” at least three times during a Tuesday press call, according to a transcript from the Pittsburgh City Paper.
Levine is one of the leaders in the Keystone State's response to the current health epidemic — who also just happens to be a transgender woman.
Griffin misgendered Levine in a question about Pennsylvania's plan for the "end game" of COVID-19 restrictions as well as a follow-up, prompting the official to call the act "really insulting."
"Please don’t misgender me," Levine told Griffin.
In a tweet later that day, the radio reporter asserted that the misgendering was an accident and that he had apologized to Levine during the call. "I apologize. I apologized twice. I truly did. It was not intentional. It was not. I was not focused. I was doing six things at once," Griffin stated.
Regardless, the misgendering had political repercussions. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto scrapped a KDKA interview with a different reporter as a result of Griffin's behavior. On Twitter, the mayor said he "will not support @KDKARadio behavior. Growing up, KDKA had good people who made us proud to be from Pittsburgh. Now, it shock-jocks, sensationalism & worse."
In a March interview with The Advocate, Levine addressed the reality that LGBTQ people were being further stigmatized by the pandemic. "It doesn’t make any difference what my gender identity is. All that matters is my professional work," she said.
"I hope by my being there every day in the trenches with the work that I'm doing, that hopefully demonstrates to the public that members of the LGBTQ community are really just here to work for the public health and for the common good. And hopefully, that means something," she added.
Levine has been generally praised for her response to the COVID-19 outbreak. To date, Pennsylvania has reported 57,991 cases and 3,806 deaths, which is roughly a third of its hard-hit neighbor New Jersey (141,000 cases and 9,508 deaths).
However, a Republican, State Sen. Doug Mastriano, has called for Levine's resignation, claiming the state's actions toward nursing homes had put elderly lives in danger. In response, Gov. Tom Wolf has defended Levine.
"She's done a phenomenal job, and I think we've got to be careful about blaming the messenger for the message," Wolf said, according to WGAL, an NBC affiliate in Lancaster. "Dr. Levine has done a phenomenal job of making sure that we do what we need to do in keeping Pennsylvanians safe."