Ohio Politicians Face Sexual Misconduct Scandals

Nov 24, 2017
Originally published on November 24, 2017 7:02 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

And across the country, politicians are being accused of sexual harassment. We're certainly seeing this here in the Capitol here in D.C., but the same thing is happening on a local level in statehouses. In Ohio, several state politicians have come under fire. We asked Karen Kasler to tell us more. She's the state house bureau chief for Ohio Public Radio and Television.

KAREN KASLER, BYLINE: Hi, Noel.

KING: Like many statehouses, Ohio has seen some people resign after sexual harassment charges. To this point, who has been pushed out of office?

KASLER: Well, we've had two resignations from the state legislature in the last month, both Republican men. The first was State Senator Cliff Hite, who resigned in October. And then also just last week, State Representative Wes Goodman, who resigned after - both of these situations, we were told, it was inappropriate behavior. But we found out that that kind of has a different meaning sometimes.

KING: State Representative Wes Goodman and his case, we've had observers saying that this could have national political implications. What is Goodman alleged to have done, and what has he admitted doing?

KASLER: Well, in his case, the inappropriate behavior apparently involved consensual sexual activity with a man in his office. And this is a big deal because Goodman used to work for Congressman Jim Jordan, who's with the very conservative Freedom Caucus. He ran for office last year as a Christian conservative married man and featured anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in his campaign. At least one of the people who turned him in noted that, but the leadership here in the Ohio House couldn't do anything while he was a candidate.

KING: Why not? Why couldn't they do anything?

KASLER: The attitude is that the only purview they have is over House staff - people who work here at the Statehouse - and the office. And so while he was a candidate, they had no control over him essentially. And then, unless it involved a House staff member or his state office, it was considered a personal issue.

KING: Former state lawmaker Wesley Goodman is also alleged to have sexually assaulted someone. Can you tell us about those allegations?

KASLER: Yeah. It's been reported by The Washington Post that in 2015, there was a fundraiser featuring the conservative Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., and that the Family Research Council knew that Goodman had been accused of molesting an 18-year-old sometime during that event or afterwards by that teen's parents.

Now, other conservatives apparently also knew of Goodman's reported activities. And they thought that Goodman was handling his issues with counseling. The Family Research Council had sent a letter to Goodman saying that they would not endorse him in the House race that he was running. But that's still out there. And there are still some very serious concerns about what this 18-year-old says that Goodman did without his consent.

KING: Beyond the Goodman scandal specifically, what are people in Ohio saying about their lawmakers of both parties? I mean, it sounds like there's just been a lot of really sketchy stuff going on here. And I wonder, how are people responding to that more broadly?

KASLER: Well, of course, the Statehouse is a workplace, and so there are a lot of rumors and innuendo. Then also on the Democratic side, we had Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neil, he put up a post on Facebook on Friday. In that post, he disclosed some sexual activity with approximately 50 very attractive females, as he said in his post, including details that helped identify two of the women. That got a lot of swift reaction. He apologized for that later. But it shows that this conversation is really hitting at the state level. And people are talking about what sexual harassment means, what is inappropriate behavior and what is appropriate in terms of how people in power and people below them deal with each other.

KING: Karen Kasler is the Statehouse bureau chief for Ohio Public Radio and Television. Thanks so much, Karen.

KASLER: Great to talk to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.