Philly Firefighters: Sen. Devlin Robinson’s Apology for Disparaging Comments Is ‘Inadequate’

Photo: Christopher Guerrisi, PA Senate GOP

By Sean Kitchen

August 4, 2023

A live microphone caught Sen. Devlin Robinson making disparaging comments about a firefighter on Tuesday. The Western Pennsylvania senator comes from a swing district and is up for reelection in 2024.

“This guy looks like a dick.”

That’s what a live microphone caught State Sen. Devlin Robinson (R-Allegheny) saying about a Philadelphia firefighter during a joint House and Senate committee meeting in Coraopolis on Tuesday.

The meeting, held by the Senate Veteran Affairs and Emergency Preparedness committee, focused on legislation introduced by Robinson that would create a Pennsylvania Task Force Urban Search and Rescue team based in Allegheny County to cover Western Pennsylvania.

As Ken Pagurek from Pennsylvania Task Force 1—a group of firefighters and first responders from across the commonwealth who are specially trained for urban search and rescue operations—was getting ready to testify, Robinson learned over his chair and made the disparaging remarks to State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin).

The Keystone was first to publish video of the incident and Robinson, who is up for reelection in a swing-district in 2024, issued an apology for his reaction following blowback on social media.

“At this hearing, I let my frustrations get the better of me and used the wrong choice of words, and I apologize for that,” Robinson said in a statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter.

Robinson then tried to justify his remark about Pagurek, saying: “The edited clip did not show that we just wrapped up a round of questioning where we were told that the citizens of Western Pennsylvania do not deserve to have an urban search rescue element that will surely save lives should a catastrophe arise.”

As reported by the Penn Capital-Star, Pagurek was invited to speak at the committee meeting on a bill sponsored by Robinson that would expand the funding for a task force in Western Pennsylvania. Pagurek testified against the measure, instead pushing for equal funding for urban search and rescue resources statewide, not just in Western Pennsylvania.

“If it was a perfect world, the checkbook was open, I would fund the entire program so that it was one unified system within the commonwealth,” Pagurek said.

Mike Bresnan, president of the Philadelphia Firefighters Local 22, wasn’t buying any part of Robinson’s apology. He called Robsinson’s remarks “completely inappropriate,” and “unprofessional.”

“I don’t know if they just got caught up in the moment. But I saw Sen. Robinson’s apology, and it’s inadequate. They need to both immediately apologize directly to Capt. Pagurek,” Bresnan told KYW Newsradio.

And for Sen. Robinson, from what I’ve seen, himself, is a decorated Marine veteran — I imagine he thinks highly of himself as far as the service — but Ken Pagurek’s service to the city of Philadelphia and citizens of the state, I could put up on par with a veteran’s because he’s been in a lot of situations where he’s put his so-called butt on the line,” Bresnan added.



  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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