PROVIDENCE — James S. Safford, the Democrat who lost to Republican Representative Robert J. Quattrocchi in a House race last year, is calling for Quattrocchi to step down because he asked a lesbian Democratic legislator if she is a pedophile.
Last week, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi removed Quattrocchi, a Scituate resident, from a House committee after Quattrocchi asked Representative Rebecca Kislak, a Providence Democrat, “Are you a pedophile?”
In a written statement Monday, Safford called for Quattrocchi “to immediately step down and concede his seat.”
“You owe everyone an apology, Bob,” Safford said. “You owe your voters. You owe Representative Kislak. You owe the LGBTQ community.”
He said he did not speak out earlier because he wanted to give Quattrocchi a chance to apologize but instead, Quattrocchi “doubled down” during a speech on the House floor Thursday.
“His ‘question’ to Representative Kislak was an abuse of power meant to diminish her, and he needs to be removed from office for it,” Safford wrote. “Men like this have no place in politics.”
Quattrocchi could not be reached immediately on Monday.
But House Minority Leader Michael W. Chippendale, a Foster Republican, issued a statement, saying, “After Safford’s unsuccessful Senate bid in 2018 receiving just 27.2% of the vote, and his subsequent 2022 run for the House against Representative Quattrocchi where he garnered only 31.5%, it’s clear that his views on issues are not shared by the people of the district. Rep. Quattrocchi has no interest in reacting to Mr. Safford’s politically opportunistic pablum.”
Safford ran against Quattrocchi for the House District 41 seat in November, receiving 31.5 percent of the vote to Quattrocchi’s 68.3 percent. In 2018, Safford ran for the Senate District 21 seat held by Senate Minority Whip Gordon E. Rogers, a Foster Republican, finishing third with 27.2 percent of the vote.
In an interview, Chippendale said Quattrocchi was not making an assertion that there is a relationship between being homosexual and being a pedophile. He said Quattrocchi has seven siblings, and four are gay or lesbian. “He loves, respects, and admires them,” he said. “To know Representative Quattrocchi on any level is to know he does not harbor any malice in his heart.”
The controversy began on March 17 when Kislak came before the House State Government and Elections Committee to explain a bill she has introduced to require “equity impact statements.” Her proposal would require that legislation spell out how it would have an impact, positive or negative, on people based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and other factors.
Quattrocchi, then a member of the committee, asked “Do I have to take into account how it affects Satanists in Rhode Island?” And, he asked, “Do I have to take into account, with sexual orientation, how it affects pedophiles in Rhode Island? Anything like that?”
Kislak responded by saying, “Well, first, I want to point out that pedophile is not a sexual orientation. My equity right now is pointing out that that was really offensive.”
Quattrocchi said, “Oh, I didn’t mean to. Are you a pedophile? I’m sorry.”
On Thursday, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat who is gay, removed Quattrocchi from the State Government and Elections Committee, effective immediately.
Quattrocchi did not apologize when he spoke about the matter on the House floor Thursday. “So much unnecessary drama, so much unnecessary pressure,” he said. “Today, I am going to confess 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.”
Quattrocchi described hateful messages sent him via phone and emails, saying, “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 is the only judgment I care about.”
In an interview, Safford said, “What upset me was his backhanded non-apology on Thursday. He started making it about himself and he had no remorse for what he said.”
Quattrocchi’s comment to Kislak was “either ignorant or aggressive,” Safford said. “Both make you not fit for public office. You don’t need to hear that from me or anyone else though, apparently, as you claim it is between yourself and God. You should pray on it, apologize properly, then step down.”
Safford he is not sure he would run even if Quattrocchi did step down from the House seat. “I just want better representation,” he said.
Safford said he used to have a “decent relationship” with Quattrocchi but he said the legislator has begun to focus on national issues such as open borders, fentanyl, and sex education. He said that during the fall campaign, he tried to warn voters about what he called “hateful, aggressive behaviors” by Quattrocchi.
“At the polls in November, I extended my hand to say ‘good luck’ to you, and you pushed passed it in front of a dozen or so witnesses,” he said of Quattrocchi. “Your demeanor changed and you became hostile. You refused to shake my hand and claimed I attacked you personally for simply sharing your factual qualifications to run for office.”
Safford said he supports Kislak’s legislation. “Equity impact statements have been passed into law by five other states,” he said. “There are thousands of pages on this subject for legislators to research, and none of it references Satanists or pedophiles.”