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Commentary: Yost won't face consequences of his callous comments. Rape victims will

In this Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost speaks at the Ohio Republican Party event, in Columbus, Ohio.
Tony Dejak
In this Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost speaks at the Ohio Republican Party event, in Columbus, Ohio.

If you believe that it was callous and downright cruel for Ohio Attorney Dave Yost to race to Fox News and other media outlets to cast doubt on the story of a 10-year-old Ohio girl impregnated by a rapist, it may be worse than you thought.

The real effect of Yost's politically motivated campaign to cast doubt that this child, the victim of an unspeakable crime, even existed could mean that, in Ohio, victims of rape and sexual assault — whatever their age or sexual orientation — are going to be far less likely to report the crimes against them to law enforcement in fear of being branded a liar.

"This is exactly why so many victims don't come forward," said Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio, which lobbied for 10 years against Ohio's "heartbeat bill," now state law after the Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade.

"Dave Yost has done nothing but make it worse," Copeland said of the Republican attorney general, a candidate for re-election this year. "It is hard enough for law enforcement and prosecutors to get victims to come forward.

"In offices like the Department of Justice and the state attorney general's office, there's a point where playing politics is not appropriate," Copeland said. "Dave Yost has crossed that line."

Yost went on the Fox News show of host Jesse Watters — who agreed wholeheartedly with Yost — saying that if there was such a case, he would have known about it. And he stated flatly that there was no evidence the case existed.

"Not a damn scintilla of evidence,'' Yost said.

About two weeks before Yost went on Fox News, the crime against the 10-year-old had been reported to Columbus police. And the Indianapolis doctor who revealed the existence of the Ohio girl in an Indianapolis Star report had already performed the abortion on the child in Indiana — an abortion the child could not get in Ohio because she was three days past the six-week limit in Ohio's law.

And, two days after his rant on Fox News, Columbus police arrested a 27-year-old Columbus man, Gerson Fuentes, who admitted to raping the girl twice. He faces life in prison.

Yost's response was to issue a written statement praising the Columbus police for the arrest.

There was no apology to the child or her family. Nor to the Indiana doctor whom he, in effect, called a liar. No hint of remorse whatsoever.

Yost told Ohio Public Radio's Statehouse News Bureau that this is "not even remotely" about not believing the little girl.

"The questions I was raising was about the Indianapolis Star and the doctor who was making the initial public statements and the red flags that appeared around that story as, day after day, there wasn't even any evidence that a crime had been committed much less that there was anything that was going to be done about it," Yost said.

"Anybody who conflates the two, frankly, probably has a little bit of a political axe to grind."

Really? A "little bit of a political axe to grind"? You didn't have one yourself, Mr. Attorney General?

It’s funny how the barrage of tweets and TV appearances from Yost and other Republican politicians erupted after July 6, when President Biden went to Cleveland and said there that the tragedy of this 10-year-old Ohio girl was proof positive that the overturning of Roe v. Wade would be a disaster for this country.

Well, with President Biden entering the fray, the GOP barrage began.

Yost had plenty of company:

  • U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Urbana, one of Donald Trump's most loyal lieutenant's in the House, tweeted, "Another lie. Anyone surprised?" Jordan took down his tweet after the arrest of Fuentes became public knowledge.
  • Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Alex Triantafilou took to Twitter to call the case, “a garbage lie that a simple google search confirms is debunked." The only thing that was debunked was Triantafilou's tweet.
  • State Rep. Brian Stewart of the Pickaway County village of Ashville, tweeted that he "wouldn’t trust an abortionist to tell me that the sky is blue."

The only thing that separates these Republicans who spoke too soon and Yost is that the Ohio attorney general might have been in a position to find out whether or not the story was true.

Tuesday, Ohio Democratic Party chair Liz Walters called on Yost to resign. Don't hold your breath.

The fact that their great arch-enemy, Joe Biden, brought up this subject in Cleveland probably egged them on.

But Yost and the rest were all blowing smoke. All filling the atmosphere with a haze of uninformed political rhetoric and misinformation.

And there is no evidence that Yost and his pals care. They can waltz away from this tragic situation rationalizing their behavior because they fear no consequences.

But the cable TV video does not disappear. Tweets can live forever, even if deleted.

There may yet to be a price to be paid by Yost. Unfortunately, the innocent victims of rape and sexual assaults have to bear the burden alone.

Copyright 2022 91.7 WVXU. To see more, visit 91.7 WVXU.

Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.