Editorial

Grace and grievance in the Rhode Island House

Representative Robert Quattrocchi was removed from one of three committee assignments by Speaker Shekarchi in response to his “pedophile” comments.

Rhode Island News: Grace and grievance in the Rhode Island House

March 24, 2023, 12:25 pm

By Steve Ahlquist

On Thursday, Rhode Island House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (Democrat, District 23, Warwick) announced that Representative Robert Quattrocchi (Republican, District 41, Scituate) was being removed from his position as a member of the House Committee on State Government and Elections due to comments made by the Representative the Speaker deemed “not in keeping with the decorum or the integrity of this body.”

The following statement from Speaker Shekarchi was read to the entire House of Representatives:

I have reviewed the videotape of the March 17, 2023 hearing of the House Committee on State Government and Elections. During the course of that hearing, Representative Rebecca Kislak testified in support of a bill she sponsored, H5763 AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT–EQUITY IMPACT STATEMENT ACT.

While asking questions as a member of the committee, Representative Robert Quattrocchi made several references about the applicability of the legislation to “Satanists” and “pedophiles” and directly asked Representative Kislak, “Are you a pedophile?”

Representative Quattrocchi’s statements to Representative Kislak during the March 17 hearing are not in keeping with the decorum or the integrity of this body. Use of suggestive and offensive language and the disparagement of an esteemed colleague will not be tolerated in this chamber.

I hereby direct that Representative Robert Quattrocchi be removed as a member of the House Committee on State Government and Elections, effective immediately.

Rep Quattrocchi removed from 1 of 3 committee assignments for pedophile comment

Uprise RI covered Representative Quattrocchi’s comments here: Rep. Quattrocchi asks LGBTQ legislator if she’s a pedophile at committee hearing

LGBTQ+ advocates issued a statement condemning Representative Quattrocchi’s dangerous “pedophile” comments, writing, ““The resurrection of such dangerous rhetoric based in bias and disinformation is part of what is fueling the flames of increased harassment and violence and a sweeping campaign of legislative attacks targeting LGBTQ+ people – primarily young people – across the country.” See: LGBTQ+ advocates condemn dangerous “pedophile” comment made by State Rep Quattrocchi

Later in the House session Representative Kislak (Democrat, District 4, Providence) exercised a point of personal privilege to address her colleagues:

I’ve been in the news a lot this week and I’ve turned down almost all requests for interviews because what I said in committee on Friday is what I wanted and needed to say in that moment, and it speaks for itself. Mostly, I directed reporters to the many important statements from different parts of our community, and particularly the LGBTQ community, and I’ll continue to do that.

But I do want to say one more thing here with you, my dear colleagues. It is a tremendous honor to serve with all of you in this people’s house. We don’t always agree with each other, and in fact, we often don’t, and that’s entirely fine. We saw that today in our floor debate, and that’s really the point of our democracy, that people representing all different communities must come together to govern our state.

But our constituents expect us to treat each other and them with respect, and that’s how we can and should work to do the people’s business. It’s what our democracy requires and what our constituents expect. I want to take a minute to thank you, my wonderful colleagues, engaged community organizations and Rhode Islanders throughout the state who’ve reached out to me [with] all of your support. Together we build a strong democracy and I look forward to continuing to do our work with all of you for our wonderful state.

In response to the Speaker’s decision, House Minority Leader Michael Chippendale (Republican, District 40, Coventry, Foster Glocester) released the following letter, saying that Speaker Shekarchi was reacting to “a mob” and characterized Representative Quattrocchi’s words during the committee hearing as “inartful” and a “perceived insult.”

“This was a measured and fair response to uphold the decorum of the House,” said Speaker Shekarchi in a released statement.

The Speaker’s actions are not unprecedented. Last year the Speaker removed former Representative Carlos Tobon (Democrat, District 58, Pawtucket) from his seat on the House Finance Committee over ethics violations. Representative Quattrocchi was removed from one of the three committees he serves on. He still sits on the House Oversight and House Corporations Committees. The Speaker, under the House rules, could have issued a censure, a reprimand or sent the matter to the House Conduct Committee.

Toward the end of the House session Representative Quattrocchi rose on his own point of personal privilege. In his statement Representative Quattrocchi wallowed in grievance, performative religiosity and defensiveness:

So much unnecessary drama. So much unnecessary pressure. We wait with baited breath for every utterance. Why won’t this man confess his guilt? Well, today I am going to confess my guilt.

First, a disclaimer. Nothing I say here today is directed at or intended for any individual group of individuals here or anywhere else. The most important thing that I believe we do in here as an act – it’s kind of glossed over – it’s become a routine thing that we do – but it’s our invocation. Whether you’re praying to God, a higher power or the universe, I think we all pray for guidance from the source of good.

And we all know what the opposite of good is. So today I’m going to confess to my guilt for calling out evil – an evil act against children. And because I did that, evil came for me through my answering machine in the most disgusting, vile – I don’t even know how to describe it – language, whatever it is.

Evil wished the rape of my children, my mother, my death. For me to be shot in the head.

Just when I thought that [it] couldn’t get any more violent, evil or lower than that, I checked my emails [and found] a long diatribe of more vile filth. There were two pictures attached to the email. They were both pictures of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ fornicating with a sheep, with my face superimposed on the sheep’s head.

But wait, it goes lower. The other one had my deceased dad’s face on the sheep.

All this for asking questions, not making statements, not making accusations, not talking about any groups of people. Doing the job that my constituents sent me here to do using what I thought was my free spirit, my freedom of speech. Excuse me, what was left of it, I guess.

So if God put me here to be a lightning rod, so be it. I won’t bend a knee to a man or a woman. I’ll bend my knee to God and when my time is done, I will accept God’s judgment. That’s the only judgment I care about.”