Ohio Rep. Bill Seitz has apologized for remarks he made at the Athletic Club of Columbus Tuesday night “and for any shame that was brought upon the Ohio House of Representatives.”
The apology from the Cincinnati Republican comes days after a report that Seitz and others roasted exiting Ohio House Republicans Chief of Staff Mike Dittoe. An online Ohio political blog wrote that the roast was filled with sexist, off-color and demeaning comments, one of which targeted Ohio Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, reportedly made by Seitz.
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“I take full responsibility for my words in their entirety,” Seitz wrote to Ohio Speaker Cliff Rosenberger.
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Seitz then apologized to Keller and former state lawmaker Diana Fessler, who he reportedly said wore tin foil hats, according to the blog’s report.
“I offer my sincerest apologies for any distress or embarrassment I may have caused,” he wrote. “My words were irresponsible as a member of this esteemed institution and as a member of House leadership.”
Seitz is the Ohio House’s Majority Floor Leader and responsible for developing and implementing the agenda for the party in the majority.
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Rosenberger acknowledged Seitz’s letter and asked him to personally apologize to Keller and Fessler and address the House members in person.
“I am disheartened by the careless and insensitive remarks you made …,” the speaker wrote. “…[Y]our remarks were irresponsible and not appropriate as a representative, and more importantly, as a member of my leadership team.”
Rosenberger said he expects Seitz to be “more thoughtful” and “more respectful” in the future as it his “responsibility to set an example that others can follow.”
Ohio Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, was emcee, who also allegedly took shots at women, including Ohio Rep. Marlene Anielski, R-Walton Hills.
“I understand why people at the event were offended, and I apologize. I am truly sorry,” Huffman said.
Ohio Senate Majority Caucus spokesman John Fortney said Senate President Larry Obhof met with Huffman "and expressed his strong disappointment and disapproval."
"The need for any further action will be evaluated as needed,” Fortney said.
Here are what some around Ohio have to say about the comments made Tuesday night at the Athletic Club of Columbus:
Butler County Republican Party Executive Chairman Todd Hall
“I have no details about what was said, but there is absolutely no place for demeaning comments about women in our society. We have elected wonderful Republican woman leaders here in Butler County, as well as statewide and nationally. Misogynistic ideas and comments are not welcome and obviously do not mesh with Republicans, where women have such a prominent role as party and political leaders.”
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper
“The reported remarks are appalling to say the least, but as bad as the broken culture of the Statehouse has gotten is what Republican legislators do every day before the parties even begin. For the last seven years under GOP control, Ohio has lagged the national recovery, and the opioid crisis has raged. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers seem more obsessed with pushing divisive issues like so-called right to work and attacking Ohioans’ health care. It’s time to clean the whole mess up with new leadership from top to bottom.”
Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Timken
“It’s difficult to comment without knowing what was or was not said, but some things just aren’t joking matters. Sexual harassment is one of them.”
Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton
“I was not there so I do not know what all was said outside of what has been reported. However, I do not condone in any way that kind of behavior. It is embarrassing and needs to stop.”
Ohio Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati
“If these reports are true, I am outraged by the inappropriate comments made by a few speakers, which are derogatory and unacceptable towards women. Legislators should be held to a higher standard because of the trust they are given by all Ohioans. These comments reflect a culture that unfortunately still exists in the Statehouse. Attendees at this event should have expressed their outrage, as the comments were disgraceful. I call on my male colleagues in the General Assembly to step up and call out those who perpetuate this culture by saying, ‘Time’s Up.’”
State Rep. Nickie J. Antonio, D-Lakewood
“Politicians who think it’s alright to publicly degrade, humiliate and make light of victims who have been sexually harassed and preyed upon by elected officials are part of the problem in America. Elected officials, Democratic and Republican, who were sitting in the crowd that night should come forward and demand better, but sadly most of them won’t in an effort to protect the establishment men entrenched in positions of political power across our state.
“Until we demand better of our elected officials and hold them accountable for treating taxpayers like commodities and the Statehouse like a playground, we won’t make progress on important issues like job creation, school funding and equal pay. Time’s up for sexual harassers at the Statehouse.”
Ohio GOP Central Committeeman Gary Cates (former Butler County state lawmaker)
"I'm disappointed. The fact that Rep. Keller was included in the comments was disheartening. How many incidents do we have to have before people realize it's not a cool thing to do anymore. We don't joke like that. We don't do it in D.C., in Columbus or here in Butler County. I'm offended by this type of behavior."