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City lawmaker Jose Peo shrugs off sexual remarks about colleague on podcast 

click to enlarge A co-host on Councilmember Jose Peo's podcast made overtly sexual remarks about the council vice president.

PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

A co-host on Councilmember Jose Peo's podcast made overtly sexual remarks about the council vice president.

Most episodes of “Politically Correcting with Jose Peo,” a weekly eponymous podcast hosted by the conservative-leaning Democratic member of the Rochester City Council, are the same: Peo and his co-hosts banter over beer about cancel culture, progressive politics, and “woke” ideals.

The show often meanders and has a trend toward middle-school humor that hinges on innuendo.

But a recent episode took a turn so vulgar against a sitting City Council member that it prompted the president of the body to get involved — although it was not immediately clear what action the president might take.

The episode, which was recorded and livestreamed on June 15, had been fairly typical until about an hour and 18 minutes in, when one of the co-hosts suggested that Peo’s colleague on the City Council, Mary Lupien, would have sex with him.

“I guarantee you, if the ginger went out with me on a date, I guarantee you she’d let me beat it up that same day,” the co-host, Lavelle Lewis, said, referring to Lupien, who has red hair, as “the ginger” and using a euphemism for intercourse.

“Absolutely would, I know for a fact she would,” he went on.

Lewis never invoked Lupien by name, but Peo made clear to whom Lewis was referring when he appeared to halfheartedly distance himself from the conversation by holding up a hand and saying while laughing, “Mary, I’m out of this.”

A few minutes later, as Lewis hesitated to take the crudeness further, Peo appeared to egg him on by calling him a “pussy.” Lewis caved and wondered aloud whether “she” would wear a facemask if he were to ejaculate on her face.

Lewis appeared to justify the baseness of the discussion by shouting, “We are just men having a conversation over drinks.”

Reached by phone, Lupien said she had heard the podcast and that she was distraught. She expressed her distress with a written statement.

“I’m deeply disappointed in my colleague,” Lupien wrote. “It’s a violation of my humanity to reduce me to a body part, to an act. It dishonors me both personally and professionally. Now, more than ever, we need to uphold the rights and dignity of women — especially those who have the courage to speak their mind.”

Council President Miguel Meléndez said he has been in touch with both Peo and Lupien and is currently reviewing next steps, but acknowledged being in uncharted territory and not knowing what they may be.

“I made Jose aware that we caught wind of it, heard it, and I told him, frankly, you can’t divorce your podcast from Council work, because you’re mentioning other councilmembers on it,” Meléndez said.

He said he hopes to foster some sort of “restorative process that will move us forward.”

“My goal is to fix this issue, and I don’t know what that means yet, I’ll be honest with you,” Meléndez said.

In a written comment, Peo advised Lupien to reach out to Lewis and resolve any issue between them. He also dismissed the idea that he did anything wrong.

“I explicitly stated I had no part in the conversation, as Mary and Lavelle have both exchanged words in the past, and I have a working relationship with both of them,” Peo wrote. “Ms. Lupien is perfectly capable of reaching out to Lavelle directly to express her feelings and squash any beef, instead of using her faction on social media, and now in local media, to try and censor a Black man from exercising his First Amendment right on my show."

Peo’s podcast is part of the We the People Podcast Network, a local podcast company perhaps best known for hosting “Kimberly’s Revolution” with Kimberly Ray. Ray was formerly half of the FM shock jock duo Kimberly and Beck, alongside Barry Beck. Ray and Beck were fired by Radio 95.1’s parent company iHeartMedia in 2020 after Ray made racist comments on the air.

The June 15 episode also featured moments in which the co-hosts appeared to mock County Executive Adam Bello as effeminate, and poked fun at City Councilmember Stanley Martin’s gender identity. Martin, a first-term councilmember, uses she/they pronouns.

This is not the first time Peo has faced criticism for incendiary remarks.

In 2020, Peo came under fire for accusing Black leaders of failing to speak out more forcefully against social gatherings in neighborhoods of color during the early weeks of the pandemic. Peo later apologized for his remarks.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.
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