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Justice O'Neill Stands By Facebook Post On Sexual History, Despite Calls For Resignation

Bill O'Neill
Bill O'Neill

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill offered a bit too much information in a Facebook post on Friday, leading to calls for resignation from both Democrats and Republicans. But O’Neill said he wasn’t hacked and is standing by his comments.

In a midday Facebook post, O’Neill said he was disappointed in the “national feeding frenzy” over sexual assault allegations against Sen. Al Franken. The Minnesota Democrat was accused of sexual assault by a Los Angeles radio host on Thursday, for which Franken apologized and said he would cooperate with a Senate ethics investigation.

“Now that the dogs of war are calling for the head of Senator Al Franken I believe it is time to speak up on behalf of all heterosexual males,” O’Neill wrote. “As a candidate for Governor let me save my opponents some research time. In the last fifty years I was sexually intimate with approximately 50 very attractive females.”

O’Neill went on to describe some of his sexual forays in detail. In an interview, O’Neill said his point was to get his past out of the way.

“As a candidate for governor I am probably the next victim. I figured I’d make it easy for my enemies just to say, I am not a perfect person, and I would suggest that neither are you,” O’Neill said. "I was very clear that I’m speaking for the heterosexual males of America, and we also are under attack by this media frenzy. I would suggest to you that what’s happening in America today is chasing away good candidates.”

Credit Jo Ingles
O'Neill's original Facebook post, with redactions of information that could identify past partners.

He’s amended the initial post since – the original offered information that could reveal identities of his past partners. But O’Neill says it wasn’t inappropriate.

“It’s obviously an appropriate post because we’re talking about real issues for real people,” he says.

Ohio Public Radio's Statehouse News Bureau chief Karen Kasler talks with Justice Bill O'Neill about his controversial Facebook post.

O’Neill announced he’d run for governor in 2018, if Richard Cordray – former Ohio attorney general and currently the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – didn’t jump in the race. Since that time, Cordray said he’s leaving that post, and O’Neill expects Cordray will announce his candidacy soon.

All three of the women running for Ohio governor have spoken out against O'Neill's comments and called for his resignation. Former Rep. Betty Sutton said in a statement that she’s “appalled” at O’Neill’s remarks.

“As a democrat I’m horrified a statewide candidate would belittle victims of sexual harassment and assault this way and as a woman I’m outraged he would equate sexual assault with indiscretion,” Sutton said. “It’s wrong to trivialize this. He should resign immediately.”

Dayton mayor and governor candidate Nan Whaley agreed that O’Neill should resign, saying on Twitter that “sexual harassment, degrading and devaluing women is not a joke.” Former state Rep. Connie Pillich agreed that "there's nothing funny about sexual assault."

Lt. Governor Mary Taylor, a Republican candidate for governor, added that “there’s a very serious conversation going on right now in this country about sexual harassment” and O’Neill’s post is “ill-timed and dismissive at best.”

And Sen. Joe Schiavoni, the other male Democratic candidate for governor, tweetedthat "Bill O'Neill is not speaking 'on behalf of all heterosexual males.'"

"We need to continue to create channels for reporting and protect women in the workplace from harassment - rather than bragging about having sex with them," Schiavoni said.

But O’Neill said he stands by the post and won’t resign.

“Absolutely not,” O’Neill says. “We don’t have robots on the bench. We have real people. And what my post demonstrates is, I’m a real person.”

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.