Commentary

Ohio Senate Republicans throw online temper tantrum over being held accountable by media

October 3, 2023 4:30 am

COLUMBUS, Ohio — JUNE 15: Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, speaks to the press after the Ohio Senate session, June 15, 2023, at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

Finally. News you can trust. From politicians with a grudge. Ohio Senate Republicans made a foray into counter-media programming with a new website called “On the Record” featuring partisan content and podcasts that they assert “will deliver the real story directly to the people.” It’s the gospel according to Ohio Sen. President Matt Huffman preaching what the mainstream media (and pesky sticklers for accuracy) will not. 

This could change everything. State GOP senators, and their always forthright leader, (credible messengers all) vow to save us from the clutches of “fake news” and “woke fact checks.” They promise to deliver the unvarnished truth — as only Republican extremists can — about the “deep state media” that has “gone to war against conservatives” with a “rabidly partisan” agenda. 

From safe seats in uncompetitive state senate districts, Team Huffman will expose the “big lie” of gerrymandering and dispatch with the “easily debunked” accusation “that the GOP supermajority in Ohio is a result of gerrymandering” (due to hopelessly lopsided redistricting maps drawn by the GOP supermajority). “There is clear evidence (nowhere) that the redistricting committee did not gerrymander the maps used in 2022,” declared a website post.

Certainly blockbuster news to the 2022 Ohio Supreme Court which struck down Republican gerrymandered maps five times. But leave it to the GOP supermajority, ensconced in the Ohio Senate via a rigged election they couldn’t lose, to put the record straight. 

“Gerrymandering played no role” in the 2022 elections that expanded the GOP supermajority in the General Assembly, read the post the on the Republican state senate site. Presumably that means the latest installment of Republican-crafted maps, that give Republicans an advantage over the (unconstitutional) plans used last year, will also play no role in the partisan-skewed districts in the 2024 elections.  

What state Republican senators and staff are posting on their “own online newsroom” (aka Huffman’s spin room) are alternative facts that bear little relation to life on Earth-1. It’s political posturing that purports to tell it like it is — unimpeded by “woke” Ohio journalists who might interject to question rhetoric detached from reality. That’s deliberate. 

Ohio GOP senators don’t want to get caught conning constituents with verifiable deception. So they bypass the media, described as “the enemy” by the senate GOP press secretary. They spew propaganda without objective check or challenge and call it a public service. Truth is what they say it is. Framed through a partisan filter. 

On the billion-dollar giveaway of tax money (universal vouchers) to fund private and parochial education, they say diverting public dollars from public schools to pay tuition at religious schools actually “saves taxpayers money.” Who knew? They also insist public schools “have plenty of money and are only looking to protect the deep state bureaucracy that protected them from accountability for decades.” Their “truth.”

On fossil fuel fracking, they say it makes for “a greener Ohio” with an “exceptionally clean” extraction process that “increases environmental quality” (despite leaking methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide, poisoning groundwater, and posing serious health risks). The claim won’t fly in the real world of documented research but will among Ohio Senate Republicans currying favor with the oil and gas industry.

On their insane response to school shootings — to arm more teachers and staff with less firearm training — they say guns make schools safer. They also say opponents who decry the absurdity of arming educators (instead of passing meaningful gun control legislation to curb rampant gun violence) don’t “think kids are worth protecting with guns.”  

On higher education, state senate Republicans say their sweeping attempt to tamp down on the supposed threat of campus “wokeness” (by slamming the door on diversity, free thought, and collective bargaining) is a course correction to end “discrimination against conservatives in academia” who “are treated unequally and can face punishing censorship” (based on culture war conjecture about a “uniformly leftist agenda” in higher ed).

On “The President’s Podcast,” Huffman and his communications chief complain about “private [media] publications” in the state who have the audacity to exercise editorial judgement and not accept all submissions from Huffman’s extreme caucus members (whose specious rants were apparently declined as misleading political messaging without merit). 

The Senate boss and his subordinate bemoaned editorials around the state “attacking and smearing Republicans” for (take your pick) thumbing their nose at the Ohio Constitution, state supreme court, and Ohio voters who demanded fair, representational, competitive legislative and congressional districts — and got neither. For trying to rob Ohio voters of their century-old right to direct democracy in an illegal August election. 

For conspiring to sabotage a citizens initiative on the constitutional right to abortion to keep a majority of Ohioans from having their say on the issue. For seizing control of an elected Ohio Board of Education and giving it to an unelected political appointee in a flagrant power grab to remove education policy from the people. I could go on.

But you know the real story. Huffman’s self-serving podcast showcases a disingenuous political schemer. His online spin room is replete with diatribes of whiny wingnuts whose submitted invectives were rejected by “woke” editorial gatekeepers as irrational nonsense. This is not news you can trust. It’s political PR from crybaby demagogues you can take with a big grain of salt.

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Marilou Johanek
Marilou Johanek

Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.

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