Ohio Arts Council board member Susan Allan Block resigns after inflammatory comments
Ohio Arts Council board member Susan Allan Block resigned Friday after social media comments surfaced in which she referred to the vice president-elect Kamala Harris as a "whore" and called for "no peace" during the U.S. Capitol riots on Wednesday.
DeWine announced Block's resignation early Friday afternoon without further comment. On Thursday, his spokeswoman had denounced the comments.
Block, of Toledo, was first appointed to the unpaid council, which allocates state and federal money to Ohio artists and arts organizations, in 2016 by then-Gov. John Kasich. She was reappointed by DeWine in July 2019 for a term that expires in 2024. DeWine, a Republican, supported Trump's re-election.
Ohio artists, art organizations and museums called for Block's resignation or removal. Ohio Arts Council Executive Director Donna Collins had said earlier Friday the agency does not comment on the personal opinions of its sitting board members.
After Block's resignation, Collins said in a statement, "Our agency does not condone or endorse these inflammatory opinions in any way, and we will continue to work in alignment with our shared values of diversity, equity, and inclusivity."
Block, in since-deleted Facebook and Twitter comments, supported the false claim that widespread voter fraud was behind Democrat Joe Biden’s win over President Donald Trump.
“THIS ELECTION WAS A TOTAL FRAUD!! NO PEACE! NO UNITY! NO LEGITIMACY!! THE BIDEN CRIME FAMILY IS IN BIDEN’S POCKET!!” Block commented on Wednesday in response to Twitter post of a news story about the insurrection at the Capitol.
Block is married to Allan Block, the chairman of Block Communications, which owns the Toledo Blade, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, four TV stations and two cable providers. Block was a board member of the privately held company as of 2019 but is no longer a member. She is also the sister-in-law to John Block, the editor-in-chief and publisher of the Blade and the Post-Gazette.
Susan’s husband, Allan Block, has contributed at least $93,000 to Ohio Republican candidates and county and state party accounts since 2016, according to an Enquirer analysis of state campaign finance data.
In the Facebook comment, shared by Blade journalist Nolan Rosenkrans, Block referred to “the illegitimate president and his whore VP.”
On Thursday, DeWine said Trump's rhetoric about the election results, especially to the crowd that later stormed the Capitol, "started a fire that has threatened to burn down our democracy."
"Susan Block’s comments are highly offensive and do not represent the views of this administration," DeWine spokeswoman Lisa Peterson said.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts cut ties with Block, an advisory board member for the District of Columbia museum, as of Friday.
“Her recent comments are reprehensible and are antithetical to the values of NWMA,” Susan Fisher Sterling, museum director, said in a statement posted to Twitter.
Block is not an employee, shareholder, or director of Block Communications, Inc. or any of its affiliates, company spokeswoman Allison Latcheran said in a statement.
"Social media posts by Susan Block represent her individual views as a private citizen; she has a First Amendment right to freedom of speech and her opinions," Latcheran said. "Her views do not represent those of Block Communications Inc. or any of its affiliates."
Toledo NewsGuild journalists have removed their names from their stories and photos in the Blade to protest pro-Trump changes to their stories, headlines and captions about Wednesday’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“Readers, concerned about these actions, have suggested boycotting the paper,” the guild said in a statement Thursday night. “By withholding our bylines, we are making a statement, in The Blade itself, that we do not stand by, or for, the actions and words of the Blocks.”
In April 2019, Block drew criticism for sharing conspiracy theories on Facebook about the source of the Notre Dame fire. When a DeWine tweet affirmed First Amendment rights during the Black Lives Matter protests last May, she replied "What is happening is nothing less than domestic terrorism! How dare (you) condone these animals!"
Marshall Shorts, a Columbus artist and designer, who is also Black, said he wasn’t surprised by Block’s comments.
“Black organizations have had complaints about these institutions for a long time,” said Shorts, 37, who is a founding board member of Maroon Arts Group, which has received funding from the Ohio Arts Council. "OAC is funded by Ohioans’ tax dollars. In that regard, it should represent a certain level of integrity and ethics."
Block was reappointed to the council at the same time as lobbyist Juan Cespedes, who pleaded guilty to racketeering last year in connection with alleged bribery to pass a bailout for two Ohio nuclear plants.
Dispatch reporter Erica Thompson contributed.