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Lawmaker defends his question at sexual harassment training

January 12, 2018

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island lawmaker says his question during sexual harassment training was misunderstood and he feels harassed by a female lawmaker who took offense.

Lawmakers attended sexual harassment training for the first time Wednesday.

When the presenter discussed asking for sexual favors at work, Democratic Rep. Ramon Perez was quoted as saying, “How do you do that?” Some attendees laughed at what they thought was a joke.

Democratic Rep. Moira Walsh told WJAR-TV she was deeply disappointed. Walsh has met with Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello to discuss the matter, Mattiello’s spokesman, Larry Berman, said Friday. Mattiello did not want to discuss the details publicly.

Walsh did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.

Perez spoke on the House floor Thursday, saying his question was sincere. He has explained it by saying he had never found himself in that kind of situation and wanted to know how to respond.

“I know my English may be hard to understand at times, but I wish people would have asked me what I was trying to say before criticizing me,” he said in a statement.

Perez told WPRO-AM he feels harassed by Walsh.

Perez also upset colleagues in June when he shared a screengrab showing web browser tabs referencing pornographic content at a committee meeting.

In October, Democratic state Rep. Teresa Tanzi said a more senior lawmaker told her sexual favors would allow her bills to go further. The disclosure prompted Mattiello to offer the training.

Mattiello was “extremely pleased” with the training session and he and his colleagues learned a great deal, Berman said.

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