Anika Omphroy, a member of the Florida House, accused fellow Democrat Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of bullying her in an open letter to the Democratic Caucus on Monday.
“I was bullied, threatened and verbally assaulted,” Omphroy wrote. “No woman should suffer mental anguish or emotional distress from anyone, regardless of the abuser’s political affiliation, race or sexuality.”
Omphroy represents House District 95, which covers parts of North Lauderdale, Lauderhill and Lauderdale Lakes. Smith, a gay man, represents House District 49 covering a part of Orange County in Central Florida.
The letter details an incident that took place between herself and Smith.
“[He] approached me in a threatening and aggressive manner as I sat at the table with others. I was uncomfortable as [he] kneeled directly in front of my legs, at which point I was forced to readjust myself due to my attire, which was a dress and leggings,” the letter reads. “[He] pounded his hand and lashed out at me with a barrage of offensive verbal assaults and a display of blatant aggression in the presence of others who witnessed his behavior. Representative Guillermo Smith trapped my movements due to his strategic body placement and positioning of his body in front of me.”
Omphroy also added that she fears retaliation online from supporters of Smith.
On Twitter Smith said there was a “tense” conversation but denies the other details found in Omphroy’s letter.
“@RepOmphroy and I agree that we had a tense conversation about an important issue to both of us, but the details in her letter are simply false + did not occur,” he wrote.
Smith claims he walked away from the exchange, which he said happened in a public space in front of multiple elected officials with a “completely different understanding,” which is why he was stunned and confused by her letter.
He went on to write “I respect her + care about how we talk about these important issues together as colleagues. I already reached out to @RepOmphroy and to the Speaker to have this dialogue + hope she is interested in doing it in a constructive way.”
According to the Miami Herald Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said she was in the room with more than a hundred other people. She told the Herald she did not believe the confrontation to be abusive, however, she also added that she wasn’t dismissing Omphroy’s experience.
“I think it’s so critical that we never dismiss the emotions and experiences of anyone, especially a woman of color,” Eskamani told the Herald. “But I know Carlos is a caring and thoughtful person, and I know that he’s very intentional in making sure he doesn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable.”
The letter asks for the caucus to address Smith’s behavior.