Radio producers get restraining orders against Sen. Joe Morrissey after studio blowup

‘He jumped in my face and made me afraid of my well-being’

By: - May 25, 2022 5:24 pm

Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond. (Photo by Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Two employees of a Richmond-area radio station took out restraining orders against Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, claiming the lawmaker’s angry outburst earlier this month over a producer’s comment about his abortion stance left them fearing for their safety.

An Alexandria General District Court judge, apparently filling in for Richmond judges who avoided an issue involving a local lawmaker, approved the two preliminary protective orders on May 20, instructing Morrissey to stay at least 100 feet away from the two men “at all times.” A hearing in the case is scheduled to take place next week.

In a court affidavit, one of the employees, David Pascoe, wrote that Morrissey “lashed out at me on and off air for ‘undermining’ him for seeking clarification.”

“He told me he would make sure I never produced anything and screamed at me about ruining me, while proceeding to intimidate my supervisor,” wrote Pascoe, who said he formerly produced Morrissey’s “Fighting Joe Morrissey Show” on WJFN Radio, the network owned by conservative commentator John Fredericks.

The studio altercation was first reported earlier this month by VPM, which said the incident was captured on a now-deleted Facebook Live stream.

The restraining orders could prove complicated, because the radio venture operates out of the same small South Richmond building where Morrissey has his district office.

Derek Clark, who identified himself as Morrissey’s co-worker, said in a second affidavit that Morrissey verbally threatened and attacked him.

“He jumped in my face and made me afraid of my well-being,” Clark wrote, describing the May 4 incident. “This happen[ed] two different times in one day.” Two days later, Clark added, Morrissey “approached me again and started to harass me unprovoked.”

Preliminary protective orders don’t require a response from the person they’re sought against, and sworn affidavits alone often suffice to get judges to take the initial step.

In an interview Wednesday, Morrissey called the protective orders an “absolutely laughable” reaction he was reluctant to “dignify with a response.”

“They are children. The highlight of their life will be that they took protective orders out against Joe Morrissey,” the senator said. “That’s fine. I’m used to it. Stand in line. I’ll deal with it in court.”

Morrissey emphasized the fact that the two men had to get an Alexandria judge involved after getting no takers among Richmond judges. However, it’s not uncommon for judges to recuse themselves from cases involving General Assembly members, because state legislators have significant power to hire and fire judges in their own area.

Morrissey characterized the studio incident as a “disagreement.”

“I didn’t lose my Irish temper not one bit,” he said.

A mostly soundless video of the studio dustup posted by Virginia Scope shows a visibly angry Morrissey yelling at someone off camera. At one point a woman intervenes, taking Morrissey by the arm to try to keep him in his chair and away from the target of his ire.

The episode began when a producer, apparently Pascoe, suggested Morrissey, a Catholic who supports restrictions on abortion, suggested Morrissey was saying “in a roundabout way” that he supports overturning the landmark Roe vs. Wade opinion establishing abortion access as a fundamental right.

“It’s not a roundabout way. I’m very direct, Dave. And don’t ever again suggest a roundabout way with me,” Morrissey said. “I’ll tell you exactly how I feel… Don’t ever tell me what a roundabout way I’m doing it. Do you understand that? Do you understand that?”

He then cut to a commercial break and commenced to pointing his finger and yelling at others in the studio.

Morrissey has a long history of run-ins with the law, including a courthouse fistfight in the early 1990s when he was serving as Richmond’s top prosecutor and the more recent controversy over his relationship with his wife, which began when she was as a 17-year-old receptionist working in his law office. That resulted in a jail sentence after Morrissey entered an Alford plea to one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, though he was pardoned by outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam in January.

Earlier this year, the president of the Petersburg NAACP said Morrissey threatened him during a meeting in Morrissey’s legislative office in the Pocahontas Building, according to WRIC. At the time, Morrissey did not deny saying he would “rip” the NAACP leader’s heart out.

The court hearing on the restraining orders is scheduled to take place June 3 at 9 a.m, according to court records.

Morrissey said he plans to “respond appropriately in court” to show “exactly how silly” the two producers’ claims are.

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Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville. Contact him at [email protected]