After Rep. Brian Sims eviscerated his GOP colleagues in a scathing Facebook video accusing some Republican lawmakers of hiding COVID-19 diagnoses and exposures for political gain, Sims revealed that Rep. Jerry Knowles shouted at him “little girl!” as he was wrapping up an address to legislators.
“I was finishing up right as he said it and they wouldn’t let me re-address the mic to respond,” Sims tells The Advocate. “All I kept thinking is all the little girls in my life are badasses, and they wouldn’t tolerate crap like this, especially from a guy like that.”
According to Sims, four years ago, Knowles — whose brother is a Catholic priest — “fought harder than anyone” in the legislature to make sure they couldn’t prosecute 400 priests accused of pedophilia that were identified by the Attorney General.
After Knowles shouted out the comment, Democratic leadership stopped the floor debate as they argued with Republican leadership about how to respond.
“The response from Republican leadership was just, ‘We all need to be more civil to one another’ and they moved on — because we don't control the room," Sims explains, adding that Pennsylvania is the most gerrymandered state in the United States. “Republican leadership is inauthentic by almost a million Democratic voters.”
When it was revealed yesterday that State Rep. Andrew Lewis and Rep. Russ Diamond (both Republicans) had kept legislators in the dark about their COVID-19 diagnoses, Rep. Kevin J. Boyle, Democratic chair for the House State Government Committee, was quick to request an investigation.
"lf it was known on May 20th that member(s) were either positive or in quarantine, we needed to know that on May 20th,” Boyle wrote. “Instead, we heard about it on May 27th from the Associated Press. We absolutely need to know more about what circumstances lead to this ill-advised decision by House Republican leadership."
“If it wasn’t for reporters, no one in the legislature would have known,” Sims says. “They would have made no plans to tell us. It's not that they waited halfway through the incubation period to finally tell us. They had no plans to tell us and we learned kind of early in the morning that it had happened. And then Republicans tried to go about business throughout the day and slowly began to learn that we knew this. We refused to go back on the House floor, even though Republicans control it for hours throughout the day, until we can all speak to the Secretary of Health.”
Democratic leaders then got on the phone with Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, a trans leader in the state who’s also been on the frontlines of the COVID response.
“In the middle of that afternoon, I had to listen to nearly 100 of my Democratic colleagues on the phone with the Secretary, talking about how risky and how dangerous this had been for them,” he continues. “People who care for their elderly parents, people who have young children, people who have interacted with staff, people who have families in quarantine.”
After the call, they returned to the floor where for hours, Republicans “denied denied denied, dodged any questions, refused to answer any questions,” Sims says.
Minutes later, Sims took to Facebook to deliver a scathing response:
Sims is using this experience to present a larger message: flip the House!
“Two things make people run for office,” he says. “They either see themselves in office for a long time, which has been this cis white male, wealthy standard. Or you look at office and you think, ‘I can do better than that and I can see a pathway to it.’ I think more and more people keep saying, ‘Trump can do it, I can do it.’ And that frustrates me sometimes because I don't want to lower the moral, ethical, or quality standard.”
He continues, “Running for office is for everybody who's a U.S. citizen. It's for everybody. I hope a lot more people are thinking, ‘Wait a second, when that guy is at his worst he thinks calling someone a little girl is an insult, then what does that say about how he views misogyny? What does that say about how he views equality? It says so much. And so the logical response to that is let's replace him.”