Ohio Taxpayer-Funded News Source Kicks Off Memorial Day Weekend with COVID Tribute Video, Gets Backlash


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Memorial Day is a federal holiday honoring and mourning the men and women who died while in performance of their duties in the U.S. Military.  An Ohio state-funded news outlet chose to kickoff Memorial Day weekend with a video tribute to Ohioans who suffered COVID-related deaths.

“This Memorial Day weekend, we remember some of the nearly 20,000 Ohio husbands and wives, parents and grandparents, siblings and loved ones lost to COVID-19 with the words of those who knew them best,” read the Tweet from the Statehouse News Bureau.

The video was published on Twitter Friday evening and at the same time made available for PBS affiliates to publish in their individual markets – the report was assembled by Jo Ingles for the State of Ohio Show, a production of the Statehouse News Bureau, which is funded by the Broadcast Educational Media Commission.

Out of nearly 60 comments on the tweet (at the time of this report), all but one expressed disapproval.

One Twitter user stated that the tweet was disrespectful to the armed forces:

Another said an apology to the families of fallen military members would be in order:

Yet another Twitter user simply posted a meme – a visual reminder of the three-day weekend:

The lone supporter wrote, “Memorial Day is Monday, jerks. Y’all gonna piss in a lead in like this? Shame on all y’all.”

“Memorial Day is for somber remembrance and gratitude towards those who selflessly gave their lives in service of our nation. I’m appalled to see the memories of all our heroic men and women disrespected on the one day every year we set aside to honor them. PBS should be ashamed of itself,” Ohio State Representative Mike Loychik (R-Bazetta) told The Ohio Star in an interview.

Loychik is Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committee and an Air Force Veteran.

However, Statehouse News Bureau Chief Karen Kasler said the video is not new – it originally published on the anniversary of the first reported COVID-related death in Ohio – and was chosen for rebroadcast “because we really appreciated the time and the stories that people told us and we thought it was a chance to put it back on the air.”

“We’re in a weekend where legislators are taking a break and it’s an opportunity for us more to just re-air.  It wasn’t necessarily that we picked Memorial Day weekend, it was more like this is an opportunity to re-hear this piece.”

Kasler continued “there are a lot of stations that do Memorial Day travel stories and there are stores that do Memorial Day sales and so I don’t think having an opportunity to reflect on anything is disrespectful.  That’s part of what we do in this country, isn’t it? We think about things. We reflect on things. We consider things.”

State Senator Frank Hoagland (R- District 30), who served as a Navy SEAL for 30 years in combat zones,  is Chairman of the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee.  He was contacted for comment and said “I don’t have an interest in getting in someone else’s way with respect to how they mourn someone who died, how they died and who they were – who can say which impact of death is greater?”

Ohio State Representative Haraz N. Ghanbari (R-Perrysburg) is Chairman of the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committee who continues to serve the military as a commissioned officer in the Reserve, and has been enlisted for over 20 years. He saw the video and provided the following statement:

The origins of Memorial Day date back to 1868 when Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Order Number 11, that states in part, “ the 30th day of May, 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

Subsequently we continue to commemorate our fallen service members on Memorial Day each year during the last Monday of May.

Many families are also mourning the loss of loved ones and friends from COVID, and to that end I understand the thought and intent of the video that was produced.

While I don’t agree with the timing, I sympathize with those who are grieving; however, Memorial Day is when we honor our military’s fallen, and that is what my family and I will be doing this Monday.

It isn’t a day off of work, or another sale at the local store. These heroes served so we can enjoy the freedoms we hold so dear.

This Memorial Day, as the Commander of our local American Legion, I’ll be serving as the master of ceremonies of our community’s service at our local cemetery in the morning. Then I head to Celina to serve as the officer in charge of a full honors Navy funeral as we bury Shipfitter Third Class Robert Edward Bailey who has been missing in action since World War II. (Additional details about Monday: https://mercercountyoutlook.net/2021/02/04/80-years-later-soldiers-remains-return-to-mercer-county/)

The video tribute is over 18 minutes long and shares the stories – through family members left behind – of the deaths of several Ohioans. “I’m the one who made the decision to re-air [the] piece because I thought it was really great,” said Kasler.  “I hope that people take the time to listen to it – the person who closes the piece, yesterday was her 33rd wedding anniversary. So if there’s anything that made me think about re-airing this piece it’s that she’s going to have her wedding anniversary this year without her husband.”

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Jack Windsor is Statehouse Reporter at The Ohio Star. Windsor is also an independent investigative reporter. Follow Jack on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].




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