"Please don't misgender me. It's really insulting."
That's the response Pa. State Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine gave to Pittsburgh radio host Marty Griffin yesterday after he repeatedly called her "sir."
Levine, a transgender woman, was hosting a conference call for some 70 members of the news media, including NorthcentralPA.com, when Griffin made the remarks:
GRIFFIN: What's the end game, sir? Where do we get to the point where folks can be confident they can conduct business if they do it safely and there's no time frame and there's no window? Correct me if I'm wrong, sir ... ma'am.
GRIFFIN: How do you respond, doctor, to the conjecture that your response is jeopardizing the health and well-being of seniors by moving them into nursing facilities even if they're no longer COVID positive, sir?
LEVINE: So please don't misgender me, it's really insulting.
GRIFFIN: I'm so sorry.
LEVINE: It's really insulting.
GRIFFIN: I apologize. It's not malicious. I apologize. I'm so sorry.
LEVINE: I accept your apology.
Griffin also apologized afterward on Twitter.
Griffin's remarks prompted Pittsburgh's Mayor Bill Peduto to cancel his planned appearance on KDKA Radio, the station that employs Griffin. Peduto referred to the station as “shock-jocks, sensationalism, & worse” through his Twitter.
Peduto made it clear that Lynne Hayes-Freeland, the KDKA reporter with whom he was scheduled to do an interview Wednesday morning, was not at fault, calling her “fair” and a “strong journalist.”
Journalists were quick to respond.
WESA’s Chris Potter tweeted, “What an absolute embarrassment to the western Pennsylvania press corp.”
NorthcentralPA.com Reporter Morgan Snook, who attended the conference call, said, "The first time Griffin called her 'sir,' I assumed he misspoke. But after two or three times, it seemed like he was doing it on purpose."
Levine is the highest-ranking transgender official in Pennsylvania and one of few transgendered people serving in an elected or appointed position nationwide, according to Philadelphia Magazine.