Members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus are seeking to declare racism to be a public health crisis.
In doing so in the Ohio General Assembly, it would mark the first statewide resolution of its kind. The effort mirrors those in Columbus, Cleveland and Franklin County in recent weeks.
It also comes as Ohio’s largest cities have faced a week of civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man killed recently during an encounter with police. Demonstrators in Columbus and elsewhere have protested against issues of police brutality and racial inequality.
House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes has called for the resolution to help showcase that equality is a priority among Ohio’s legislative leaders.
Before even having a chance to vote on the proposal, some legislators have already had to respond to criticism coming from a Republican lawmaker.
State Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana, posted about the proposed resolution on Tuesday morning. He accused the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus of introducing the resolution as a means of instituting gun control and judicial reform.
Vitale also shared a photo of the Caucus, adding: “I am darker than MOST of the people in this picture.”
Rep. Erica Crawley, a Columbus Democrat who is a member of the Caucus, took issue with Vitale’s claims about the resolution.
“As your colleague and someone who has worked with you on legislation, this post is flat out disingenuous and a COMPLETE LIE!!!!,” she responded. “You should remove this post immediately. I find it woefully ignorant of you to deceive people like this who trust you as a leader and could cost other people their lives!!!! DO YOUR HOMEWORK PEOPLE!”
Rep. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, also replied:
‘Growing up in inner city Cleveland’
Vitali graduated from Hudson High School.
STOP questioning my colleagues’ blackness. https://twitter.com/tylerjoelb/status/1267820034673393667 …Tyler Buchanan@Tylerjoelb
Oh my. GOP State Rep. Nino Vitale posts about the Ohio legislature’s Black Caucus and then says in the comments: “I am darker than MOST of the people in this picture.”
Primarily, the resolution consists of statistics from sources such as the Ohio Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio and others.
‘Spreading misinformation and using this kind of rhetoric does a disservice’
Vitale has been among the most strident critics against the coronavirus mitigation tactics taken by Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, denouncing their actions as being “tyrannical.” Vitale has repeatedly referred to Acton as a dictator and nicknamed her the “Doctor of Doom.”
His references to her being a “globalist health director” led to Vitale being condemned by the Anti-Defamation League earlier in May.
Along with criticism from Democrats above, Vitale has recently been the subject of rebuke from a leader in his own party — albeit from the separate chamber.
Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, made the comment as part of a broader criticism of the House Republican Caucus.
“Bill Gates didn’t create the virus, Ohio’s health director isn’t a globalist dictator, and Ohio law enforcement officers aren’t a ‘goon squad.’ Spreading misinformation and using this kind of rhetoric does a disservice to the people of Ohio,” Obhof said in a statement reported Tuesday by The Columbus Dispatch.
To date, House Speaker Larry Householder has not publicly commented on Vitale’s conduct over the past several months.
Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism. Read more Ohio Capital Journal stories here.