Gov. Mike DeWine (R) came to state health director Amy Acton’s defense Monday after she’d become the target of protests and antisemitic attacks.
“I’m the elected official. I’m the one who ran for office, I’m the one who makes the policy decisions,” he said at his daily press briefing. “Members of my cabinet, Dr. Acton included, work exceedingly, exceedingly hard but I set the policy. So when you don’t like the policy, again, you can demonstrate against me, that is certainly fair game — but to bother the family of Dr. Acton, I don’t think that’s fair game. I don’t think that’s right.”
On Saturday, a small group of protesters gathered at Acton’s home in Bexley, a suburb of Columbus. Per the Cleveland Plain Dealer, signs included such messages as: “DR. AMY OVER-RE-ACTON HAIRSTYLISTS ARE ESSENTIAL.”
Acton has signed the state’s stay-at-home orders, the most recent of which is in effect until May 29.
The health director, who is Jewish, has also been on the receiving end of antisemitic criticism from Republican lawmakers in the state.
On Friday, Rep. Nino Vitale (R) raged against Acton and the extended stay-at-home order in a Facebook post. In it, he called her a “globalist,” a common, antisemitic code for Jewish people used by the far right.
“Your basic human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness do not come from an unelected Globalist Health Director, who signed the order in the dark of night,” he wrote. “Your basic human rights are inalienable and cannot be bought, sold, traded or taken from you.”
The post was trailed by a flock of hashtags, including “#StopSpreadingFear,” “#Think” and “#MasksDoNotWork.”
A couple weeks before, Sen. Andrew Brenner (R) amplified his wife’s Facebook post, which she tagged him in, comparing Acton’s orders to Nazi Germany.
In screenshots captured by the Ohio Capital Journal, Sara Brenner responded to Acton’s approval of other countries looking into issuing certificates to those immune to COVID-19.
“This actually feels like Hitler’s Germany where you had to have blonde hair and blue eyes to be able to function anyway, and you were damned otherwise,” she wrote. “When are people going to say enough is enough?”
In the comments, Andrew Brenner responded. “We won’t allow that to happen in Ohio,” he said.
After first blaming reporters for misconstruing his statements and receiving a bipartisan firestorm of criticism, he eventually apologized.
Acton’s office had no comment. Spokesperson Melanie Amato pointed TPM to the governor’s responses to the attacks.
“Reopen” protesters have been gathering at the Ohio state capitol in recent days to demonstrate against the stay-at-home orders.
As of Monday afternoon, per the state health department, Ohio had 20,474 cases of coronavirus; 1,056 people have died.