Fact checking Pa. Rep. Daryl Metcalfe's Facebook meltdown
Last Monday, a Democratic colleague filed a complaint against Republican State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, saying a recent encounter left the Democrat fearful for his safety.
On Friday, Metcalfe posted a wide-ranging screed to his official Facebook page, taking aim at his accuser and other Democrats he’s served alongside.
During his career, Metcalfe, who represents Butler County, has been the source of frequent controversy over his views on everything from homosexuality to gun control to white nationalism. Friday was no different, with Metcalfe name-checking political foes and Democratic State Rep. Chris Rabb of Philadelphia, who filed the complaint against him, calling them liars, one a convict and another an unethical "lying homosexual."
Portions of Metcalfe’s attacks are true — one of his targets did resign amid scandal. Another was the subject of an ethics investigation.
Other claims made by Metcalfe — including that a colleague touched his arm 40 times in an attempt to provoke him — are either impossible to prove or are unsubstantiated.
The biggest issue for Metcalfe’s critics remains what Sinceré Harris, executive director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, calls his pattern of "racist and homophobic outbursts" and political attacks that frequently cross the line into personal attacks.
Here, we look at the various claims in Metcalfe’s widely circulated Facebook response to determine what’s accurate and what’s not. Pejoratives and personal attacks were not included in the scope of our fact-check.
"After a committee meeting last week Philadelphia Representative Rabb approached me and launched into a profanity laced disrespectful tirade."
The encounter between Rabb and Metcalfe that prompted Rabb’s complaint occurred after an April 11 State Government Committee hearing, at which point Rabb criticized Metcalfe for gutting a bill that would have established an independent redistricting commission, according to City & State.
After a brief back-and-forth between the two, Metcalfe reportedly said to Rabb, "We’d have a very different conversation on the street." Rabb said he perceived this as a threat, citing Metcalfe’s reputation as an outspoken gun owner, City & State reported.
Rabb filed a formal complaint with the chief clerk’s office, which handles House security matters.
In his Friday Facebook post, Metcalfe said Rabb was the aggressor and went off on a tirade.
Politifact Pennsylvania reached out to Metcalfe’s office to see if there was any supporting evidence for this claim. Metcalfe’s office declined to comment.
In response to the same question, Rabb provided PolitiFact Pennsylvania with the following email response:
"I am a fan of the occasional colorful language in the appropriate settings, and anything I may have said to Metcalfe pales in comparison to the vulgarity of his abuse of power as the majority chair of an influential House committee and the bigoted rhetoric and policies he embraces. [...] Our exchange was in Room 205 in the Ryan Building. It was packed with legislators, staffers, lobbyists, activists, constituents & press. Our exchange was neither loud, nor private. It was just unpleasant, which is the norm. It is entirely possible that other people heard put back in forth, but I can’t confirm that."
He continued by calling Metcalfe an "extremist bully."
PolitiFact Pennsylvania was unable to locate any third parties who may have overheard or witnessed the exchange.
Steve Miskin, a spokesman for the House Republican Caucus, told City & State that Rabb had blown the encounter out of proportion, adding, "Rep. Metcalfe was speaking conversationally while Rabb was speaking highly excitedly, with profanity-filled language."
Reached by PolitiFact Pennsylvania on Monday, Miskin said he did not hear the exchange himself but was given accounts by some of the Republican legislators on hand. Miskin declined to provide the names of those legislators.
Bill Patton, Miskin’s counterpart and the spokesman for the House Democratic Caucus, said the caucus had not asked other Democratic committee members for their version of events, adding, "I think at the time most members were leaving the room."
This remains a he-said-he-said situation with support split along party lines.
"Former Rep Leslie Acosta who lied about me is now convict Acosta"
Another claim in Metcalfe’s Facebook post involves former State Rep. Leslie Acosta.
In 2015, Metcalfe and Acosta, a Philadelphia Democrat and Pennsylvania’s only Latina legislator at the time, made headlines after Metcalfe interrupted Acosta while she spoke at a hearing for a bill Metcalfe introduced to make English Pennsylvania’s official language.
Months later, in March of 2016, Acosta separately pleaded guilty in a sealed proceeding to one felony count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, Philly.com reported. (That article about her 2016 felony guilty plea also called Acosta a convict in its headline.) She ultimately resigned in December 2016 after facing pressure from fellow Democrats and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
Meanwhile, it’s unclear what Metcalfe meant when he accused Acosta of having lied about him. Again, his camp did not provide further comment.
"Rep Brian Sims has been under an ethics investigation"
Metcalfe led into this claim by calling Rep. Brian Sims a "lying homosexual." Sims, with whom Metcalfe has verbally sparred in the past, was elected in 2012, making him Pennsylvania’s first openly gay state legislator. As with Acosta, it’s unclear what Metcalfe meant when he accused Acosta of having lied about him.
The claim about Sims having been under an ethics investigation is accurate.
In May of last year, the Philadelphia Gay News reported that Sims was facing an ethics investigation "for speaking fees and the travel costs he's been reimbursed during his time in office."
Sims called the investigation a "hit job" orchestrated by his political opponents. The complaint that launched the probe was filed by an anonymous complainant.
Sims’ office did not respond to an email seeking comment. But he did tweet about Metcalfe’s Facebook post.
"constant touchy-feely Rep Matt Bradford who has touched me over 40 times in what many observers have said is an attempt to provoke me!"
Late last year, Reps. Metcalfe and Bradford made national headlines over an exchange between them at a State House Government Committee hearing, the committee co-chaired by both men.
During the exchange, Bradford touched Metcalfe’s arm with his hand, causing Metcalfe to say, "Look, I’m a heterosexual. I have a wife. I love my wife. I don’t like men as you might. But stop touching me all the time."
In the aftermath, Democrats called for Metcalfe’s resignation. And following Friday’s Facebook post recalling the Bradford incident, among others, Democrats again called for Metcalfe to be removed from office by Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai.
As for Metcalfe’s claim that Bradford touched him 40 times in an attempt to provoke him, it remains unproven. In December, Metcalfe told WHYY that "Staff members and other members have said they thought [Bradford] was doing it routinely throughout the meetings to try and provoke me" although the WHYY report cited no evidence to support this claim.
Bradford did not return a phone call seeking comment. A member of Metcalfe’s communications staff declined comment.
This claim is unverified and, to a large extent, unverifiable.