'Run its course': Lawmaker responds to News 5 report about Holocaust comments

Screen Shot 2022-03-23 at 9.30.43 PM.png
Posted at 9:22 PM, Mar 23, 2022

COLUMBUS — On Tuesday, News 5 aired a report about comments made by one of the primary sponsors of the “divisive concepts” bill. The report stemmed from an interview exchange between State Representative Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Ashtabula) and a News 5 reporter in early March.

During the interview, Fowler Arthur was asked about the financial aspect of the bill. While attempting to talk about funding, she brought up the Holocaust.

"You should talk about these atrocities that have happened in history, but you also do have an obligation to point out the value that each individual brings to the table," Fowler Arthur said.

"Maybe you're listening to it from the perspective of a Jewish person that has gone through the tragedies that took place," Fowler Arthur also said. “And maybe you listen to it from the perspective of a German soldier."

When we showed him this interview, James Pasch, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said, "There are moments in our history where there are not two sides to debate. There is a right side and a wrong side."

You can watch the full question and answer from the interview here:

UNCUT: interview with Sarah Fowler Arthur

The interview left News 5 with questions about some of the statements she made about the Holocaust and how this important part of world history would be taught under HB 327, which seeks to change the way topics considered controversial are taught in public institutions.

After multiple editorial meetings with the News 5 team, the interview was shared with the Anti-Defamation League, the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Ohio Education Association, all of which expressed concern.

News 5 tried to follow up with Fowler Arthur. News 5 reporter Morgan Trau called and left voicemails and sent numerous emails to her and her team — detailing the major concerns that the organizations brought up. Our reporter also texted and even sought her out at the statehouse, including Tuesday morning at a committee hearing.

Fowler Arthur's team refused to do a follow-up interview to allow her to clarify her comments and help News 5 viewers understand how HB 327 could impact the teaching of subjects like the Holocaust.

You can read and watch the original report here.

On Wednesday night, Fowler Arthur issued this response:

“I want to apologize for the unconscionable position that has been wrongfully attributed to me, a position that I personally find abhorrent. These views are not who I am or what I believe. Period. In fact, we introduced House Bill 327 to combat the very concept that any individual is inferior to another on the basis of such attributes as race, religion or national origin. This situation illustrates what’s wrong with politics today. What began as a sincere effort to end state-sanctioned bullying and harassment has been turned on its head, with politicians and left-wing special interests advancing a false narrative to kill the bill and raise money. They’re trying to mischaracterize me the same way they mischaracterized the bill. That’s wrong. I agree with Speaker Cupp, these sentiments ‘have no place in this discussion and no place in this bill.’”

News 5 reached out numerous times to Republican house leaders. In an evening press conference on Wednesday, Speaker of the House Bob Cupp issued a quick statement in a press conference but did not get back to us on our request for a one-on-one interview.

"Those were inappropriate remarks, they were uninformed remarks," the speaker said.

To be clear, News 5 aired her full statement about hearing both sides of the Holocaust and published the uncut version of her comments on our website. Trau brought direct concerns that the Jewish community had to Fowler Arthur a full week before the piece aired.

After reaching out more than ten times, News 5 was finally able to speak with a representative of Fowler Arthur.

“She just said she would like the statement to run its course before," the spokesperson paused. "We would like the statement to go out before we schedule another interview.”

No other Republican leaders responded to requests to be interviewed. Democrats are currently calling for the removal of this bill from the House.

Cupp did add that hearing both sides of the Holocaust has no place in any discussion and no place in that bill. He then referenced the story directly.

"I think it came out yesterday, but it was recorded some time ago," he said. "The bill has changed from that."

But the bill hasn’t changed since the original interview on March 4. Since that day, there have been no hearings for the bill to vote on a substitution, and no internal substitutions submitted to the bill’s portal online. It is possible that Fowler Arthur is drafting a new substitution, but that is not known, since she refused to answer any emails, texts or calls. Cupp's office was also not available to clarify, either.

RELATED: Comments about the Holocaust from representative sponsoring 'divisive concepts' bill raise concerns

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.