(*This piece has been updated to clarify the circumstances under which Sen. Robert Mensch, R-Montgomery, made his comments)
A Republican state senator from Montgomery County who was caught on an open microphone saying he liked the chamber’s virtual voting sessions because he could “stare daggers” at a female colleague, had to walk back those remarks Tuesday.
The comment, by Sen. Robert Mensch, R-Montgomery, came before the Senate gaveled in for an online session on Tuesday morning.
*Speaking over a still photo of the Senate chamber’s ceiling, Mensch, who can be heard, but not seen, observed that he liked the online sessions, which the Senate now uses to conduct business in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I do. I can stare daggers at Muth,” he said, referring to state Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, and one of the chamber’s more outspoken progressive members.
Another voice can be heard saying, “And she doesn’t even know it.”
Mensch later offered an apology to the full Senate, the majority of whom had gathered on the online platform Zoom to conduct the day’s business.
Appearing on video, Mensch, following the Senate’s protocol, directed his remarks to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, who was presiding.
“Mr. President I made a comment for which I’d like to apologize,” Mensch said, without mentioning Muth by name. “It was an offhanded comment to another person in the office. And [it’s] a caution to everyone that the microphones are open. I looked, I thought it was closed. But it was a personal comment. A personal observation. Thank you.”
Both Muth, and fellow Sen. Lindsey Williams, D-Allegheny, took to Twitter, where they separately criticized Mensch and his behavior.
“How was your day teleworking? Welp, mine was full of #Daggers – misogyny beaming strong in virtual workplaces,” Muth wrote. “Too bad we couldn’t pass bills to actually help ppl, instead of mean mugging on Zoom.”
How was your day teleworking? Welp, mine was full of #Daggers – misogyny beaming strong in virtual workplaces… too bad we couldn’t pass bills to actually help ppl, instead of mean mugging on Zoom. https://t.co/EaAbVXGXsb
— Senator Katie Muth (@SenatorMuth) April 7, 2020
In a separate Tweet, Williams said Mensch made “the weakest statement possible,” adding that “he apologized for getting caught & didn’t mention Sen. Muth by name.”
Today @SenatorMensch said he likes virtual session because he can stare daggers at @SenatorMuth & she wouldn’t even know. @senatorscarnati asked him to apologize. Sen. Mensch made the weakest statement possible. He apologized for getting caught & didn’t mention Sen. Muth by name. pic.twitter.com/c1fvmu8EOG
— Lindsey Williams (@SenWilliamsPA) April 7, 2020