Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine, the nation’s first openly transgender public health secretary, lashed out at a reporter — pleading, “please don’t misgender me” — during a media call on Tuesday after the reporter referred to Levine as “sir” multiple times.
KDKA Radio talk show host Marty Griffin reportedly referred to Levine, who was born Richard Levine, as “sir” multiple times during the call.
“What’s the end game, sir?” Griffin asked Levine.
“Where do we get to the point where folks can be confident they can conduct business if they do it safely and there’s no time frame and there’s no window? Correct me if I’m wrong, sir — ma’am,” he continued.
The repeated use of “sir” prompted Levine to address Griffin.
According to the transcript:
GRIFFIN: How do you respond, doctor, to the conjecture that your response is jeopardizing the health and well being of seniors by moving them into nursing facilities even if they’re no longer COVID positive, sir?
LEVINE: So, please don’t misgender me.
GRIFFIN: I’m so sorry.
LEVINE: It’s really insulting.
GRIFFIN: I apologize. It’s not malicious. I apologize. I’m so sorry.
Griffin’s use of the word “sir,” which corresponds with Levine’s biological gender, prompted a backlash from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who canceled a scheduled appearance on KDKA Radio, citing its “behavior.”
“Cancelled interview w/ Lynne Hayes-Freeland for tomorrow,” Peduto said. “Not upset w/her, she’s always been a fair, strong journalist.”
“But 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,” he added:
Cancelled interview w/ Lynne Hayes-Freeland for tomorrow. Not upset w/her, she’s always been a fair, strong journalist. But 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.
— bill peduto (@billpeduto) May 12, 2020
“What an absolute embarrassment to the western Pennslyvania press corps,” WESA-FM’s Chris Potter tweeted:
What an absolute embarrassment to the western Pennslyvania press corps.
— Chris Potter (@CPotterPgh) May 12, 2020
“Agreed. Not cool,” WESA’s health and science reporter Sarah Boden concurred:
Agreed. Not cool.
— Sarah Boden (@Sarah_Boden) May 12, 2020
“I apologize. I apologized twice. I truly did. It was not intentional,” Griffin said on social media. “It was not. I was not focused. I was doing six things at once.”:
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. https://t.co/cdBO9r1iF8
— Marty Griffin (@MartyGriffinKD) May 12, 2020
Levine is facing intense scrutiny over the health department’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly as it comes to nursing homes. The vast majority of coronavirus deaths in the state, nearly 70 percent, stem from nursing homes and personal care facilities. This fact follows a controversial March guidance released by the department, which instructed nursing homes to receive residents who were treated for the coronavirus.
The guidance stated:
Nursing care facilities must continue to accept new admissions and receive readmissions for current residents who have been discharged from the hospital who are stable to alleviate the increasing burden in the acute care settings. This may include stable patients who have had the COVID-19 virus.
As Breitbart News reported, Levine’s 95-year-old mother was removed from a personal care home during the pandemic as the heath secretary essentially directed the facilities to accept stable patients who had the virus.
“My mother requested, and my sister and I as her children complied to move her to another location during the Covid-19 outbreak,” Levine stated.
“My mother is 95 years old. She is very intelligent and more than competent to make her own decisions,” the health secretary added.