NewsGovernmentState GovernmentOhio State Government News


Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O'Neill apologizes for Facebook post on sexual history

O'Neill is also Democratic candidate for governor
Posted at 11:38 AM, Nov 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-19 13:01:28-05

CINCINNATI -- Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O'Neill apologized Sunday for a Facebook post that drew widespread criticism for trivializing sexual harassment and sexual assault.

"I was wrong," said O'Neill, a Democratic candidate for governor.

His original post Friday criticized "the dogs of war" calling for Democratic Sen. Al Franken to resign after being accused of groping a woman during a USO Tour in 2006. In the now-deleted post, O'Neill wrote that he had been "sexually intimate with approximately 50 very attractive females" during his life and mentioned several encounters, including one in a hayloft of her parents' barn.

Critics from both parties were swift to condemn the 70-year-old O’Neill, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican. Some called for his immediate ouster from the court.

O'Neill added another post Saturday afternoon that said he apologized if he offended anyone, "particularly the wonderful women in my life." In an interview Saturday with The Associated Press, he said he didn't regret what he wrote and that he edited the original post and then deleted it after an online commenter called him insensitive for including information that could identify some of the women.

Sunday brought yet another apology.

"I am sorry," he wrote. "I have damaged the national debate on the very real subject of sexual harassment, abuse and unfortunately rape. It is not a laughing matter."

O'Neill said during Saturday's interview that his message was misunderstood and that his civil rights history shows he’s not an "insensitive misogynist." He said he wrote the original post because "the sensitive subject of sexual harassment" has led people to treat Franken and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, a Republican, "in the exact same fashion."

Moore has been accused of sexually assaulting teen girls in Alabama when he was a prosecutor in his 30s. Moore has denied the allegations.

Asked if he thought the furor would harm him politically, O'Neill said, "I think it's clear it's not going to help me. But sometimes when you're right, you do have to stand alone. And I am right here."

But Sunday's post started this way: "There comes a time in everyone's life when you have to admit you were wrong. It is Sunday morning and i (sic) am preparing to go to church and get right with God. But first I have to get right with my family, my friends, and the thousands of strangers who have been hurt by my insensitive remarks."

It’s uncertain whether O'Neill has a political future in Ohio. He has maintained that he would quit his nascent gubernatorial bid if fellow Democrat Richard Cordray decides to run.

Cordray announced his resignation as head of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this week, an expected prelude to him entering the race.

O'Neill said he has spoken with Cordray in the last several days, but claimed they did not discuss the race. O’Neill is required to step down from the bench when his current term ends in January 2019 because of state age limits for judges.