The Cleveland Plain Coward

Democrat Ed FitzGerald, left, challenges Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), in a rare face-to-face matchup that the Cleveland Plain Dealer decided its readers should not see.

This is going on in Ohio:

The Northeast Ohio Media Group last week posted a video of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and challenger Ed FitzGerald meeting with the editorial board, then took it down without explanation and replaced it with an audio recording.

.... The video shows Kasich – endorsed by the Plain Dealer – slumped in his chair and refusing to answer questions, according to the Plunderbund website. That site posted part of the video on Monday, then received this threat from NOMG content veep Chris Quinn.


Jim Romanesko also reports that Plunderbund editors have cited Fair Use, and given that this is an election issue in an election season, they would at least appear, as Tim Cushing notes for TechDirt, to have a reasonable avenue to such a claim. Mr. Romanesko notes that he contacted Northeast Ohio Media Group, and notes that they never responded.

Wonkette has posted six minutes of video, and presently it is still up; it’s not flattering to watch:

In the entire six-minute clip, Kasich has given a boilerplate speech about just how pro-life he is, but he never answers the question about the gag rule he signed into law. He doesn’t even acknowledge the question. It’s just not what he wants to focus on, and therefore it does not exist. Just like his Democratic opponent. And apparently, at least for one of the editors, that’s just fine. In fact, that’s such a just fine answer, the newspaper endorsed him for re-election!

Steve Benen attempts to distill the general critique:

The discussion, such as it was, continued for a while, with the governor repeatedly saying he’s “pro-life,” while (a) refusing to answer the question; (b) refusing to acknowledge his rivals were sitting next to him; and (c) refusing to recognize the policy he imposed on his state.

Kasich, the chief executive one of the nation’s largest states, did all of this while adopting the mannerisms of a petulant child who’s been told to take a time out.

But the story took an even weirder turn when the Cleveland Plain Dealer decided it didn’t want voters to see any of this.

Keep in mind, Kasich refused to participate in any debates this year, so this editorial-board meeting was literally the only opportunity for Ohio voters to see their gubernatorial candidates talk about their ideas. It made the discussion, hosted by the Plain Dealer’s editors, arguably one of the more important political events in Ohio this campaign season.

And initially, the newspaper did publish the video of the gathering online. But then the paper pulled the clip, posted an audio-only version, and threatened legal action against an Ohio-based news site that offered readers a YouTube version of the discussion.

Just so we’re clear, FitzGerald’s policy observation was correct: Kasich imposed a policy in which counselors at rape-crisis clinics are legally prohibited from referring victims to abortion providers, even though terminating an unwanted pregnancy is still legal. The governor has not explained why such a gag rule is necessary, and when Plain Dealer editors tried to get an answer, Kasich would only say he’s “pro-life” – which is not a substantive explanation for the policy.

“Why is it pro-life to have a gag rule for a rape-crisis counselor,” FitzGerald asked. “If the woman is pregnant because of a rape, why is that pro-life?”

It should be noted that Gov. Kasich answered responded to that iteration of the issue by reiterating his own “position of being pro-life”. That is to say, when asked how certain actions are pro-life, the Gov. Kasich responded by saying, “Look, at the end of the day, I’m going to do what I think is pro-life”.

It is hardly a profile in courage.

Then again, neither is the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The only real question is why they decided they needed to take some sort of action; that is to say, the question of how the Cleveland Plain Dealer botched it up is pretty straightforward—they are suppressing editorial board candidate interview footage, and with every appearance of doing so because the footage casts the endorsed candidate in poor light. The question of why persists, though. Has the Cleveland Plain Dealer thrown its hat in, chosen to become an official actor in campaigning for Gov. Kasich’s re-election? Or could that appearance simply be an outcome of a clodhopping, ill-considered effort to cover its own ass, because it is very hard to look the public squarely in the eye and call oneself a plain dealer after having endorsed that.

In the end, the explanation is only suitable as an explanation of what happened. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has just tarnished its masthead; its name, Cleveland Plain Dealer, is a misnomer, to be certain. And Northeast Ohio Media Group’s conduct rises to such a level that the name Cleveland Plain Dealer becomes a deception.


Romanesko, Jim. “Northeast Ohio Media Group Threatens Website for Posting Editorial Board Clip”. 28 October 2014.

Cushing, Tim. “Cleveland Plain Dealer Owner Demands Takedown Of Unflattering Video Featuring Candidate It Endorsed In Governor’s Race”. TechDirt. 30 October 2014.

Zoom, Doktor. “We Found You That Double Supersecret Video Of John Kasich Being An Asshat”. Wonkette. 29 October 2014.

Benen, Steve. “The gag rule Kasich doesn’t want to talk about”. msnbc. 31 October 2014.

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