ICYMI: Cleveland.com Analysis: The Consequences of Dave Yost’s and Other Republicans’ Handling of 10-Year-Old’s Rape Case
July 22, 2022
Columbus, OH — In case you missed it, a Cleveland.com analysis dug deeper into Dave Yost’s disgusting handling of a horrific case involving a 10-year-old central Ohio girl who was raped and forced to travel out of state to get an abortion after Republicans implemented an extreme six-week abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest. Andrew Tobias of Cleveland.com recaps all of the ways Yost mishandled the case, from questioning the story of the victim without any facts to back it up to refusing to apologize to further underscoring the consequences of Yost’s six-week abortion ban for Ohioans.
“Although partisanship and the intensely differing views on abortion will lead some to defend Yost, at best, he looked foolish speculating on national television about a sensitive topic about which he clearly was not informed. At worst, it’s easy for critics to cast him as being callous or even professionally irresponsible, given his office’s work, which includes supporting rape survivors and often getting involved in local criminal cases. Victims’ advocates said Yost’s decision to publicly doubt the story could prevent future victims from coming forward, given the still prevalent social stigma that they may not be believed, ” writes Cleveland.com’s Andrew Tobias.
Earlier this week, Ohio Democratic Party Chair Elizabeth Walters called on Yost to resign. Read more HERE.
Read more from Cleveland.com HERE and below.
- A textbook political adage for elected officials is if you’re going to speak out about something controversial, make sure you’ve got your facts straight. And if you somehow make a mistake, try to limit the damage by owning up to it, or at least shutting up until it blows over.
- Attorney General Dave Yost fell short on both counts last week after he went on national TV to help sow doubts about a story about a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim who traveled to Indiana in June to get an abortion. The tragic story was confirmed the following day when a Columbus man was arrested and accused of the crime, leading to widespread debate, including criticism of how Yost, as the state’s top law enforcement official, chose to speculate about a sensitive case on cable news.
- For a brief recap, Yost’s national involvement in the story began on July 11, when he went on Fox News for a primetime interview to discuss whether or not the incident really happened. The story was first publicly reported by the Indianapolis Star in a July 1 article, quoting an Indianapolis doctor who said she treated the girl after a referral from a colleague in Columbus. As the story gained wider attention, some media critics noted the story was difficult or impossible to confirm, while conservatives noted the doctor’s past public advocacy for abortion rights.
- Yost leaned into those doubts two days later on Fox News, where the segment kicked off with a chyron saying the story had “major red flags.” And in his remarks, Yost, while holding open the possibility the story could be true, said it was “especially telling” that as the state’s top law-enforcement official, no agency had reported the crime to his office, which plays a major role in investigating rape cases.
- But on Wednesday, the Columbus Dispatch reported the arrest. Court documents say Gerson Fuentes, 27, confessed to police after he was arrested the day before and that Columbus police were notified of the case on June 22.
- But Yost, rather than show regret for how things had transpired, doubled down on his earlier comments, saying in a round of media interviews that he only was doubting the way the story was initially reported.
- Although partisanship and the intensely differing views on abortion will lead some to defend Yost, at best, he looked foolish speculating on national television about a sensitive topic about which he clearly was not informed. At worst, it’s easy for critics to cast him as being callous or even professionally irresponsible, given his office’s work, which includes supporting rape survivors and often getting involved in local criminal cases. Victims’ advocates said Yost’s decision to publicly doubt the story could prevent future victims from coming forward, given the still prevalent social stigma that they may not be believed.
- First, it helped smoke out some clarity on how the medical exemptions in Ohio’s broadly written new heartbeat law, which bans abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, may apply in real life. Because the law is so new, only going into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court decision, and since no specific medical conditions are explicitly spelled out as exemptions in its written language, it was not previously known how state officials might interpret it. The lack of clarity can make some doctors risk-averse, since breaking the law could cause them to be charged with a felony.
- Finally, it likely will help shape the terms of public debate, as Democrats and abortion-rights advocates point to the consequences of Ohio’s abortion restrictions notably not including an exemption for rape victims.
- Republicans have seen other scandals roll off their backs, like the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow online charter-school scandal in 2018 and the 2020 corruption scandal surrounding House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law.
- But abortion and protecting children are more visceral, hot-button political issues. And Ohio Democrats say the way Yost conducted himself has energized their supporters.
- “Both since the Dobbs decision came down and last week in response to Yost’s abhorrent media appearances,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairwoman Liz Walters said this week as she called for Yost’s resignation, something he’s certain to ignore. “He kind of stepped right into a pit of his own demise on this, in my opinion. It shows he is callous. It shows he is unfeeling. And it shows he is prioritizing national media appearances over the health and welfare of the citizens he has taken an oath to protect and defend.”