The editorial board of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper, hosted a meeting recently with the state’s gubernatorial candidates: incumbent Republican Gov. John Kasich, Democrat Ed FitzGerald, and Green Party Candidate Anita Rios. The discussion got a little … odd.
FitzGerald, behind in the polls, not surprisingly stayed on the offensive, and noted the Kasich approved a law that restricts what rape-crisis counselors can tell victims. “Why was it important to have a piece of legislation that literally imposed a gag rule on rape crisis counselors?” the challenger asked.
The governor, slumped in his chair and visibly annoyed, decided to pretend that FitzGerald wasn’t in the room. Wonkette did a nice job summarizing the scene.
One of the editors prompts him: “Would you like to answer that, governor?”“Do you have a question?” Kasich responds. The editor then tries to explain the question FitzGerald just asked. As much as the editor understands the question, anyway.“I assume that it had to do with, uh, there were limits on what they could say about having abortions,” the editor says.Kasich still says nothing, possibly because the reporter made the mistake of mentioning FitzGerald’s name while summarizing the question. Once more, Kasich spreads his hands and asks, “I mean, did you have a…?” At which point FitzGerald jumps in and explains to the clueless reporter, “He’s trying to pretend he didn’t hear me say it, so you need to repeat it.”
The discussion, such as it was, continued for a while, with the governor repeatedly saying he’s “pro-life,” while (a) refusing to answer the question; (b) refusing to acknowledge his rivals were sitting next to him; and (c) refusing to recognize the policy he imposed on his state.
Kasich, the chief executive one of the nation’s largest states, did all of this while adopting the mannerisms of a petulant child who’s been told to take a time out.
But the story took an even weirder turn when the Cleveland Plain Dealer decided it didn’t want voters to see any of this.
Keep in mind, Kasich refused to participate in any debates this year, so this editorial-board meeting was literally the only opportunity for Ohio voters to see their gubernatorial candidates talk about their ideas. It made the discussion, hosted by the Plain Dealer’s editors, arguably one of the more important political events in Ohio this campaign season.
And initially, the newspaper did publish the video of the gathering online. But then the paper pulled the clip, posted an audio-only version, and threatened legal action against an Ohio-based news site that offered readers a YouTube version of the discussion.
Just so we’re clear, FitzGerald’s policy observation was correct: Kasich imposed a policy in which counselors at rape-crisis clinics are legally prohibited from referring victims to abortion providers, even though terminating an unwanted pregnancy is still legal. The governor has not explained why such a gag rule is necessary, and when Plain Dealer editors tried to get an answer, Kasich would only say he’s “pro-life” – which is not a substantive explanation for the policy.
“Why is it pro-life to have a gag rule for a rape-crisis counselor,” FitzGerald asked. “If the woman is pregnant because of a rape, why is that pro-life?”
Kasich, who says he supports a rape exception to his anti-abortion position, still wouldn’t answer, except to say, “Look, at the end of the day, I’m going to do what I think is a pro-life – you know, looking, being in a position of being pro-life. There’s nothing more I can say about it.”
The newspaper soon after endorsed Kasich.