Republican leaders in the state House on Wednesday issued a sternly worded rebuke of state Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, demanding he fully apologize for separate incidents in which he harassed protesters outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia, saying his actions “are a reflection on all of us, regardless of party affiliation.”
Sims, who was first elected to the House in 2012, made national headlines last week after he posted video of himself on social media asking female protesters, “Have you fed any children today? Or have you just stood out in front of a Planned Parenthood shaming people for what they have a constitutional right to do?”
The videos sparked national headlines, with outlets ranging from Newsweek to Fox News picking them up. But Sims is no stranger to controversy. He’s previously made news for feuding with Republican colleagues and flipping off Vice President Mike Pence.
“Rep. Brian Sims’ actions reflect the worst in how people should behave and treat one another in a civil society. No one should ever be subjected to any form of harassment or intimidation because they choose to exercise their constitutional rights to pray or peacefully advocate,” the statement, issued on behalf of House GOP leadership by Majority Leader Bryan Cutler’s office, reads.
“The actions of one member are a reflection on all of us, regardless of party affiliation, and the pledge we all take to serve the people of our Commonwealth. The victims of Rep. Sims’ actions deserve a sincere apology, as do the members of the House,” it continues.
Sims later walked back his remarks in a video posted to his Facebook page and vowed to “do better.” His actions, along with the actions of other lawmakers, prompted a rare public scolding from Cutler, R-Lancaster, and House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny. In remarks on the House floor, and without naming names, the two leaders appealed for civility from both sides of the 203-member chamber.
In their statement, Republican leaders said the House GOP has given “Sims time to take responsibility for his behavior and show he is willing to treat people who have opinions different from his own with the respect befitting a member of the House of Representatives. We expect House Democratic Leadership to address this.
“We are extremely disappointed that Rep. Sims’ actions have caused harm to his victims and to our chamber. We expect him to accept full responsibility for his egregious and unacceptable behavior and to pledge that he will meet the high standards that the people of Pennsylvania have for their elected officials.”
Last week, Rep. Stan Saylor, R-York, called for an ethics investigation into Sims’ conduct, while state party leader Val DiGiorgio asked Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner to open a criminal investigation.
Sims met last week and this week with House Democratic and Republican leaders, where he “discussed his behavior at length,” House Democratic spokesman Bill Patton said in a statement.
Sims “expressed sincere regret for his actions more than a week ago and he pledged to do better,” Patton said. “Democratic leaders addressed the matter with Sims privately and are satisfied it will not be repeated. Republican leaders are aware of this.”