Coronavirus: DeWine to protesters: I’m fair game, Acton and media aren’t

Protesters gather outside of the Ohio State House in Columbus, Ohio, Monday, April 20, 2020, to protest the stay home order that is in effect until May 1. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Protesters gather outside of the Ohio State House in Columbus, Ohio, Monday, April 20, 2020, to protest the stay home order that is in effect until May 1. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday rebuked protesters who confronted a TV reporter at the Ohio Statehouse on Friday and who showed up outside Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton’s house over the weekend.

“I am fair game,” DeWine said. “It’s not fair game to disrespect the news media, to be obnoxious to the news media. That’s not fair game. You should come after me.”

He noted that journalists are doing their jobs under the First Amendment and informing the public about what the protesters have to say. “To treat them with disrespect, to no observe social distancing with them, to be just obnoxious — I just find that very, very sad.”

DeWine said he is the elected officeholder who makes policy decisions.

“To bother the family of Dr. Acton, I don’t think that’s fair game. I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s necessary to get your point across,” DeWine said.

Protests at the Ohio Statehouse have attracted hundreds of people on multiple occasions. On Friday, protesters carried guns and ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags, anti-vaccination signs, posters that called for Acton’s removal and recall of DeWine, and Donald Trump re-election flags.

Adrienne Robbins of the NBC affiliate station in Columbus, who regularly covers the DeWine press briefings, was confronted by a protester outside the Statehouse entrance. Laura Hancock, a reporter for Cleveland.com, captured the verbal confrontation on video and posted it to Twitter, where it has been viewed 1.9 million times.

The U.S. Constitution as well as the Ohio Constitution guarantees the rights to assemble, petition the government for redress of grievances and free speech.

DeWine noted that as he grew up in Yellow Springs, demonstrations were common. “That is something we are used to and something we respect,” he said.

In April, DeWine denounced a demonstrator who carried an anti-Semitic sign at the Statehouse and he issued a stern rebuke to state Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, and his wife for making comments that compared a statement from Acton to rules from Nazi Germany.

RELATED: DeWine denounces hate speech from protesters

“The comments showed a complete lack of understanding of the Holocaust — made even more offensive by posting on Holocaust Memorial Day — and was a slur on a good, compassionate, and honorable person who has worked non-stop to save lives and protect her fellow citizens,” DeWine said in a statement.

Brenner said he was misquoted. “I would never, ever say what I am accused of saying,” he wrote in a statement.