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Re-posting an item from a friend on Facebook led to calls for the resignation of the president of the Ohio Board of Education, Debe Terhar.
Terhar, a Republican from Cincinnati, re-posted a photograph of Hitler with a caption reading: "Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler."
The Columbus Dispatch, reporting the story, said the item originated "with the Facebook page of Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, which features a variety of anti-Obama, pro-gun posts and pictures."
After the story appeared, Terhar removed the material, and then closed her Facebook page. She issued a statement saying she was not comparing President Obama to Hitler, had not researched the posted material and had made no comment on it.
A little research might have saved a lot of trouble.
Our friends at the myth-busting site Snopes.com could not find any source documenting the purported Hitler quote. Neither could Salon.com, which pointed us to a 2004 paper by University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt. He found the quote "is probably a fraud and was likely never uttered." (Harcourt further noted that the Weimar government immediately before Hitler’s had tougher gun laws than the Nazi regime.)
Terhar, who is married to Ohio Rep. Lou Terhar, said in a statement that she regretted "the consequences of carelessly sharing" the posted material and would be "more selective in my use of social media in the future."
Gov. John Kasich said he saw no need for further action.
"It was clearly a mistake, and she says it was a mistake," he told the Dispatch from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. "I’m glad that she’s come out and said she’s sorry about it, that it’s a mistake, and she’s not going to do it again."
Ohio Democrats led calls for Terhar to resign. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern went further in a statement.
"In absence of a full, formal apology from Terhar," Redfern said, "Kasich has a duty to remove his hand-picked state school board president from office."
A subsequent email from Redfern that solicited letters to Kasich and the school board demanding Terhar's resignation carried the subject line, "Tell Kasich: Fire Terhar!"
PolitiFact Ohio wondered if Kasich had the power to do that. We called Redfern's office.
A party spokesman, Jerid Kurtz, told us that Redfern understands Kasich has no direct formal power to remove Terhar, but Kasich does have a bully pulpit as the state's most visible and arguably most powerful public figure. The governor should issue a statement of no confidence, rather than his initial "no comment," and can pressure Terhar to resign as president, Kurtz said for Redfern.
Kurtz noted that Kasich showed power over the board two years ago by forcing out Superintendent Deborah Delisle, who resigned, citing pressure from the governor’s office.
The state superintendent serves at the discretion of the board. Delisle said in a letter to board members that Kasich’s administration had informed her that a majority of the board would replace her if she did not step down. The same day, Terhar was elected board president by fellow board members with Kasich’s support, reversing the outcome of a vote two months earlier.
Using that example, one would conclude that if Kasich wanted Terhar gone from the president’s chair, he has the influence to make it happen.
Removing her from the board altogether would be a different matter.
The board is made up of 19 members. Eleven are elected on a district basis, and eight are appointed by the governor.
Terhar, self-described as "an early participant in the Tea Party," is an elected member from Cincinnati representing Hamilton and Warren counties. She started her four-year term on Jan. 1, 2011, was elected board president in March 2011 and re-elected unanimously by the board to the post last month.
Her seat on the board is not among the positions subject to removal at the pleasure of the governor under the Ohio Revised Code.
Under the code and the state constitution, in fact, Ohio lacks any provision for the recall of state officials.
So what's the verdict here?
Terhar posted a bogus quotation and false history. Whether there should be consequences is a matter of opinion that we can't rate. That includes calls for her resignation.
Redfern's statement that Kasich "has a duty to remove" her, however, means that Kasich has the power to do so.
The Democratic Party spokesman, explaining Redfern’s remarks, said the call for Terhar’s resignation or removal extended only to her position as school board president, not as a board member. That’s an important distinction.
He acknowledged that Kasich does not have statutory control over the Board of Education, but he accurately cited Kasich’s forcing out of a state school superintendent as a demonstration of the governor’s power over the board.
We rate Redfern’s statement as Mostly True.
Cincinnati Enquirer, "Pressure builds on Terhar to resign," Jan. 24, 2013
Columbus Dispatch, "Democrats want state school-board head out over Facebook post," Jan. 23, 2013
Columbus Dispatch, "Kasich rejects calls for Terhar’s ouster," Jan. 24, 2013
Cincinnati Enquirer, "Kasich won't remove Terhar for controversial Facebook post," Jan. 22, 2013
Snopes.com, "To conquer a nation," Jan. 10, 2013
Salon, "The Hitler gun control lie," Jan. 11, 2013
University of Chicago Law School, "On gun registration, the NRA, Adolf Hitler, and Nazi gun laws: Exploding the gun culture wars," June 2004
Ohio Democratic Party, "Ohio Democrats call on...," Jan. 22, 2013
Ohio Democratic Party, phone interview, Jan. 25, 2013
Ohio Department of Education, State Board Home
Ohio Public Media, "Debe Terhar," 2013
Ballotpedia, "Laws governing recall in Ohio," Jan. 14, 2013
Ohio State Bar Association, "What You Should Know about Recall Elections," Feb. 26, 2010
National Conference of State Legislatures, "Recall of state officials," June 6, 2012
Ohio Revised Code, "3.07 Misconduct in office"
Steven Steinglass, Gino Scarselli, "Ohio State Constitution: A Reference Guide," Section 38: Removal of officials
The Plain Dealer, "State schools superintendent Deborah DeLisle resigns," March 15, 2011
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