Late last month, the Raleigh News & Observer and ProPublica published an investigative piece examining Senator Erica Smith’s claims that Smith’s fellow State Senators disrespected, bullied, and harassed her. While Sen. Smith names several Senators, lets narrow our attention to the Senator that large portions of Winston-Salem sent to the General Assembly. The very serious and well-substantiated allegations that the News & Observer/ProPublica made against Lowe are particularly offensive and unacceptable. It’s clear, Sen. Paul Lowe needs to resign immediately.
Sen. Sam Searcy’s witness statement, which was obtained by The News & Observer, describes a “verbal dispute” between Lowe and Smith.
“Senator Lowe initiated the argument by making a statement directed towards Senator Smith. Senator Smith did not like the comment made and responded to Senator Lowe. A hostile, verbal back [and] forth between the two Senators ensued,” Searcy’s statement said.
Lowe approached Smith, according to the police report summary.
Searcy intervened. His statement says that he “felt the need to step in between both Senator Lowe and Sen Smith, fearing the possibility of a physical assault. I have witnessed Senator Lowe use profane and hostile language to Senator Smith and others before.”
In his report summary, the investigating officer, Lt. Francisco Flores Jr., said, “Although no physical contact took place, it is my understanding that Senator Smith feared for her safety, thus changing her course of action due to the behavior of Senator Lowe.” Then-Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr. and Sen. Jay Chaudhuri led Lowe out of the room.
I understand that we are in the midst of a second civil rights movement, but the seriousness of Senator Paul Lowe’s Me Too scandal, shouldn’t be ignored. Shame on the Winston-Salem Journal for refusing to call for Lowe’s resignation. After running a couple of stories rehashing the News & Observer/ProPublica story, the Journal’s editorial board let the pastor/politician off with a mild scolding:
We know that in the rough-and-tumble of politics, nobody expects legislators to be choirboys, even those who, like both Lowe and Smith, are ministers. But even in politics, even in the 2000s, there are standards of decency and civility that should to be practiced by every grown-up on the legislative floor. This inability to get along harms the already questionable reputation of the state legislature and leaves a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.
We encourage Lowe and everyone else involved to learn to take a deep breath and count to 10.
Last year, Sen. Lowe’s unhinged behavior was widely reported. On September 11, 2019, Lowe was the butt of jokes on social media after he walked out of a committee room and grabbed a reporter’s cellphone and threw it to the ground. Lowe’s seemingly childish behavior now appears to be far more sinister.
The News & Observer/ProPublica piece confirmed that the Lowe’s even more serious crime occurred in that committee room before he threw a reporter’s cellphone.
Behind closed doors, Senator Lowe made an extraordinarily vulgar and hostile comment to Sen. Erica Smith (see Sen. Smith’s Twitter post below). Lowe’s offensive and hostile comments spoken to Sen. Smith were witnessed by a fellow Senators.
The start of the YouTube clip showing Sen. Lowe accost a journalist, also captures Lowe being escorted out of the room by two men, who felt that Sen. Smith was in danger. If Lowe hadn’t been escorted out of the room, perhaps he would have physically assaulted Sen. Smith, instead of an unsuspecting reporter. According to the News & Observer/Pro Publica, police investigating the matter concluded that “Lowe committed an assault inside the room.”
No criminal charges were brought against Sen. Lowe. He wasn’t even sanctioned by the NC Senate. Sen. Smith has called for an end to the current ineffectual old boys club system, which allows senators to investigate fellow senators. Smith wants an independent body to address ethics complaints in the future so that other members of the NC General Assembly don’t have to go through the abuse that she has endured.
The powers that be in Raleigh have failed Sen. Erica Smith. It’s up to the good people of Winston-Salem to tell Sen. Lowe that it’s time for him to resign. Lowe’s flimsy response to the serious allegations (substantiated by video evidence, eyewitnesses, investigative reporting, and a police report) is laughable.
It’s unclear why our Senator from East Winston felt that he had the right to harass a Senator from Eastern North Carolina. Lowe has more than embarrassed the community that elected him. If we remain silent after Lowe’s outlandish and abusive behavior, then we ourselves are complicit. That’s why Senator Paul Lowe, Jr. must go!
Remember when a NC state senator grabbed the phone of a @NCPolicyWatch reporter and threw it after screams erupted in the democratic caucus room? The screams came after Erica Smith alleged Paul Lowe charged at her. Police say he committed simple assault. https://t.co/x2KKoKLQyv
— Jessica Huseman (@JessicaHuseman) May 28, 2020
If your colleague said these remarks to you, what would you say?
“Get off your knees and stop begging Republicans… I only want to see a woman doing one thing on her knees,”
“F*ck you and F*ck Cooper too,” and
— Erica D. Smith (@EricaforUSSen20) May 28, 2020
— Paul Lowe, Jr. (@PaulLowejr) May 30, 2020