An Ohio Supreme Court justice who recently declared his intention to run for governor is defending “heterosexual males” amid growing accusations of sexual misconduct.
Justice William O’Neill took to Facebook on Friday to make a statement on what he called the “national feeding frenzy about sexual indiscretions,” and in doing so he gave details about his sexual history.
“In the last fifty years I was sexually intimate with approximately 50 very attractive females,” O’Neill wrote. “It ranged from a gorgeous blonde who was my first true love and we made passionate love in the hayloft of her parents barn and ended with a drop dead gorgeous red head from Cleveland.
“Now can we get back to discussing legalizing marijuana and opening the state hospital network to combat the opioid crisis.”
O’Neill, a Democrat, drew swift, bipartisan condemnation from Ohio politicians and from the chief justice of the state’s Supreme Court.
“No words can convey my shock,” Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said in a statement emailed to The Washington Post. “This gross disrespect for women shakes the public’s confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.”
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said O’Neill’s Facebook post was “terrible,” especially given its timing.
“We’re having a serious national conversation about rape culture and sexual harassment, and it’s crucial for men to take time to listen to women and consider their experiences and insights,” Pepper wrote on Twitter, adding, “Justice O’Neill’s Facebook comments both dehumanize women and do nothing but trivialize this important conversation, which is actually about harassment and abuse, not encounters between consenting adults.”
O’Neill could not immediately be reached for comment Friday by The Post. His campaign spokesman, Chris Clevenger, condemned O’Neill’s comments, calling them “both disturbing and misguided.” Clevinger said he was quitting the campaign.
The justice made his remarks one day after broadcaster Leeann Tweeden publicly accused Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) of forcibly kissing her during a USO tour in 2006 and groping her breasts while she was sleeping on a plane during the trip home. Tweeden’s revelation came shortly after an explosive congressional hearing on sexual harassment, which female lawmakers said is a pervasive problem on Capitol Hill.
O’Neill said in his post that it was time to “speak up” for heterosexual men “now that the dogs of war are calling for the head of Senator Al Franken.”
“I am sooooo disappointed by this national feeding frenzy about sexual indiscretions decades ago,” the justice wrote in his post.
O’Neill, who announced that he is running for governor in 2018, has already stirred controversy by holding his seat on the state Supreme Court until he submits his petitions for candidacy.
He wrote in the Star Beacon newspaper this week that once his paperwork is filed, “I will resign from the Supreme Court. And not a day before. Here’s why”:
In 2012, I was elected by over 2 million Ohioans to serve on the Supreme Court of Ohio. It has been a privilege, and nowhere will you find even a shred of suggestion that I have done anything other than a competent, impartial and professional job.
There are currently about 99 cases pending before the Court. I have participated in them, conducted the research and consulted with my colleagues. They are nearly ready to be released. To simply walk away from those matters would be grossly unfair to the litigants, and a violation of my oath of office … which I cherish. As I indicated this week, I have already voluntarily informed the Court I will not be sitting on any new cases from this point forward. That is the right thing to do.
When I file petitions to run for governor I will be a candidate for governor. Anything short of that act is constitutionally protected free speech, which has been ratified by none other than the late great Justice Antonin Scalia.
After O’Neill’s Facebook post, lawmakers and political leaders slammed him for his “crass” comments; some also called for the judge to step down.
“There’s a very serious conversation going on right now in this country about sexual harassment and @BillForOhio’s crass post is ill-timed and dismissive at best. We have to be better than this,” Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R) said Friday on Twitter.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley (D) tweeted that “sexual harassment, degrading and devaluing women is not a joke. Justice O’Neill should resign.”
Democrat Connie Pillich, who is also running for governor, agreed that the justice should resign, tweeting that “there’s nothing funny about sexual assault.”
Pillich said O’Neill “has been a friend” and donated money to her campaign — money she now says she will redistribute to women’s organizations.
Betty Sutton, another Democrat in the race for governor, said she was “appalled” by O’Neill’s comments.
“As a democrat I’m horrified he would belittle victims of sexual harassment/assault this way and as a woman I’m outraged he would equate sexual assault with indiscretion,” she wrote, adding, “He should resign immediately.”