The List: Reasons Gov. DeWine should bar Jack Windsor from future press conferences

Andy Downing
adowning@columbusalive.com

For months, Jack Windsor has been a peculiar presence at Gov. Mike DeWine’s COVID-19 press conferences, asking long-winded, conspiracy-laden questions about the miscounting of Ohio coronavirus cases andsupposed Marxist contact tracers while simultaneously taking to social media toequate mask mandates with a form of government control. More recently, though, Windsor, who received his press credentials from Mansfield TV station WMFD, has taken to Twitter to stump for armed insurrection, embracinga right wing falsehood that the election has somehow been stolen from President Donald Trump.

Now, Windsor would likely claim that he’s not suggestingactual violence, and that he’s merely spreading awareness of tyranny and the importance of Second Amendment rights, which is essentially what he did in a social media reply in which he also condescendinglyaddressed a female Twitter user as “sweetheart.” 

AsOhio Capital Journal reporterTyler Buchanan noted on Twitter, in his call-to-arms Windsor also appeared to be parroting a similar social media post made earlier by Rep. Kris Jordan, who represents Delaware County, where Windsor lives. “You can vote your way into Socialism (or have it stolen),” Jordan wrote on Dec. 11. “But you will have to shoot your way out of it.”

None of this, however, should excuse the message, which would be reprehensible coming from anyone, but is doubly so from a journalist, even one who has attempted to fashion himself into a proudly contrarian right wing media source, likethe “change my mind” meme sprung to life and granted a press badge. 

And while Windsor has a right to speak his mind, it doesn’t mean that he has to be given the access or platform to continually spread falsehoods in doing so. Here are just a few of the reasons that DeWine should bar Windsor from future pressers.

The “shoot your way out” tweet

This Twitter post, covered above, really should be the final straw. Windsor can claim deniability and say that he’s merely stating his constitutional freedoms, but the underlying message is the same kind that has fueled recent terrorist plots, such as the foiled kidnapping hatched against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. There’s little doubt that Windsor has complete awareness of the audience with which this tweet will resonate, as well as the reasons the message connects.

A defiant anti-masker shouldn’t have a state-sanctioned platform, especially during a pandemic

DeWine has repeatedly urged Ohioans to wear masks to help protect the most vulnerable people in the state. Yet, at press conferences, the governor regularly gives airtime to Windsor, who has made his distaste for the practice clear, repeatedlyequating mask requirements with tyranny. Windsor is free to say whatever he wants, obviously, but DeWine has no responsibility to elevate his voice or lend it greater credence, which is what being an active part of the press pool allows. And if there’s any doubt that Windsor has cultivated an audience for his message, check outhis Facebook fan club, a nearly 10,000-strong cesspool filled with vocal anti-vaxxers, QAnon devotees and mind-boggling stupidity. In one post, for example, a group member expressed incredulity that work on a COVID-19 vaccine could have started in February, “before there [was] a pandemic,” ignoring the fact that the coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

Windsor takes time away from serious journalists

Q&A time during press conferences is limited, and there are any number of Statehouse reporters who would welcome additional opportunities to ask serious-minded questions of the governor. Instead, Windsor is repeatedly given time to rattle off long-winded inquiries centered on rolling back restrictions and restoring “personal freedoms” amid a worsening pandemic. 

Which is a problem because Windsor is not a journalist

Windsor, who was operating a wedding venue as recently as April, is a right wing advocate who regularly pals around with Republican state lawmakers, spoke at a Trump rally and testified in support of a “Truth in COVID-19 Statistics” bill in June.In his testimony supporting the deceptively named piece of legislation, Windsor charged that the state had shared “inflated and inaccurate [COVID] data” and accused the DeWine administration of engaging in “the practice of intentional selection of data.”

Additionally, Windsor no longer appears to produce content for the TV station through which he was originally credentialed, instead writing for conservative blog the Ohio Star, of which he is managing editor. Unlike other journalists, some of whom are bound by rules set by the Legislative Correspondents Association that prohibit them from accepting money from political operations, Windsor and the Star have published columns from the Trump campaign.

Windsor has plenty of places where he is free to sound off (Facebook, Parler and WMFD, one would think). There’s no reason for the state to continue giving him the room to air out his manicured talking points, particularly as many advance ideas that are potentially harmful to public health, or in the case of his "gun and war type" tweet, perhaps even public officials.