Ohio’s top election official slams “liberal media” over CBS Ukraine reporting

It’s his second sweeping blast at the press this month

By: - February 28, 2022 3:45 am

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Screenshot from The Ohio Channel.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has his hands full right now. 

He’s part of a seven-member commission whose struggles to come up with legislative and congressional maps have resulted in an order to explain in person why they shouldn’t be held in contempt

And in the absence of maps, the state’s top elections official is scrambling to figure out how to conduct a primary for which some absentee ballots must be ready in less than three weeks.

But that didn’t stop LaRose from taking time out last week to bash what he called the “liberal media” for a story reporting that the Ukraine crisis exacerbated inflation. It’s the second time this month that LaRose has made sweeping attacks on the news media in tweets that didn’t allow readers to view the original stories LaRose was referring to.

On Wednesday, hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces to invade Ukraine, LaRose tweeted a screenshot of a CBS News story headlined “The U.S. economy has been hit with increased gas prices, inflation and supply chain issues due to the Ukraine crisis.”

LaRose seemed to think that unfairly let U.S. Democrats off the hook for an inflationary trend that dates back to early 2020 and has increased to worrisome levels since Joe Biden became president at the beginning of 2021.

“This tweet really happened,” LaRose tweeted, along with a laughing emoji. “It’s astonishing the lengths liberal media will go to defend and distract from the failures of Democrats. The American people won’t be fooled.”

Viewers of the tweet couldn’t easily read the story for themselves because LaRose posted only a screen grab of the version CBS posted to its Twitter page. Published just before Russia started invading Ukraine, it said the inflationary consequences of the geopolitical tensions were already manifesting.

Although many Americans may prefer that the U.S. stay out of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the brewing violence and political fallout are already hurting their wallets,” the top of the story said. “The price of oil, which has been rising over the past year, hit an eight-year high this week as traders reacted to geopolitical tensions. Gas prices are likely to surge even further if the hostilities escalate or if U.S. lawmakers pass another round of sanctions, according to experts.”

The story went on to say that if an invasion did take place, things stood to get even worse. Gas prices were likely to surge higher and sanctions could squeeze flows of high-demand items such as microchips, the story said.

Hours later, just after the invasion started, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres echoed those concerns, saying it could exacerbate, “the high prices of oil, with the end of exports of wheat from Ukraine, and with the rising interest rates caused by instability in international markets.”

CBS wasn’t the first to report that Russia’s saber rattling was worsening inflation. The previous day, the New York Times reported that “the rapid escalation in tension is sure to draw policymaker attention and could make for even higher inflation in the near term.”

More than a week before that, on Feb. 14, the paper reported on a basic ingredient of inflation already made worse by tensions over Ukraine.

“Oil prices have risen to well over $90 a barrel — their highest levels since 2014 — in recent days as fears of war have grown,” the story said.

LaRose’s office wouldn’t say why, when he slammed the CBS story, he didn’t post a link so people could read what it actually said.

The partisan press-bashing on social media might be seen as a departure for LaRose.

When he first ran for office in 2018, the Hudson lawmaker said he wanted to be a bipartisan secretary of state who would help draw districts that would allow candidates to run in the middle of the political spectrum, as opposed to its extreme fringes.

“I want to be part of a party that wins elections because we work harder, have better candidates and we have better ideas,” he told The Columbus Dispatch, adding that competitive elections would boost voter participation.

But heading into re-election this year, LaRose has repeatedly voted for election maps that the Republican-majority Ohio Supreme Court has rejected as being unconstitutionally generous to the GOP.

And LaRose’s attack on the media last week wasn’t his first of the month. On Feb. 3 he tweeted, “Here they go again. Mainstream media trying to minimize voter fraud to suit their narrative. The Hill uses a press release from my office to falsely claim ‘there’s nothing to see here – move along.’ WRONG!”

As with his tweet slamming the CBS News story, LaRose’s tweet slamming a story the news organization The Hill was a screen grab that didn’t include the part of the story he was objecting to. It referred to a Feb. 1 press release subtitled “Ohio’s Election System Works to Ensure Voter Integrity and Keep Election Fraud Exceedingly Rare.” 

In his tweet LaRose didn’t specify any inaccuracies and it’s hard to see what he was objecting to.

The release by LaRose’s own office said its investigators found that just 0.0005% of the ballots might have been fraudulently cast in the 2020 Ohio election. It also quoted LaRose as saying “In Ohio, easy to vote and hard to cheat aren’t mutually exclusive.”

Even so, LaRose claimed it was the press that was minimizing voter fraud “to suit their narrative.”

In a follow-up tweet, Ohio’s top elections official gave a shoutout to former President Donald Trump’s relentlessly repeated falsehoods about fraud in the 2020 election.

Those lies are only part of the conduct by the former president that is widely seen as harmful to democracy.

In the election’s aftermath, Trump asked federal agencies to consider seizing voting machines. He also asked the Georgia secretary of state to “find” just enough votes to allow him to win there. And in the midst of the deadly Jan.6 attack on Congress, he leaned on Vice President Mike Pence not to certify Biden’s victory. Pence’s refusal prompted rioters to chant “Hang Mike Pence.”

Despite all that, in the follow-up tweet to the one in which he accused the media of minimizing voter fraud, LaRose said “President Trump is right to say voter fraud is a serious problem.” 

LaRose’s office wouldn’t respond at the time when asked whether Trump’s conduct in the Georgia incident might itself constitute a form of election fraud — an issue Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating.

Trump has been criticized by journalism organizations for making hundreds of baseless attacks on the press, “dangerously undermining truth and consensus” among the body politic.

But amid his own blasts at the Fourth Estate, LaRose’s office wouldn’t answer last week when asked if he believed Trump’s assaults are beyond the pale.



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Marty Schladen
Marty Schladen

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He's won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.