Jay Edwards Clarifies, WOUB News Apologizes

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During a Sunday afternoon phone call with WOUB News, Ohio’s 94th district representative explained that his words were misinterpreted and he did not contradict his pre-election stance when it came to his vote on House Bill 258  – better known as the anti-abortion “Heartbeat Bill.”

Jay Edwards, a self-described “pro-life individual,” was one of the 60 votes that approved the measure on Thursday; the bill must now be voted on by the Ohio Senate. During an October debate with his Democratic challenger, Taylor Sappington, Edwards said he didn’t actively spend his time in Columbus
trying to take abortion rights away from women.

On Friday afternoon, when WOUB News first called Edwards for a clarification regarding what was said during the debate and his vote, he said he wasn’t able to “verify things that I may say” at the time, and would prefer to answer reporters’ questions via email. The reporter sent the email immediately following their conversation.  Edwards responded to that email on Sunday afternoon, with questions about the WOUB News story that had been published Sunday morning.

Edwards’ insistence on not actively spending his time in Columbus trying to take abortion rights away from women was interpreted as a contradiction with his support of House Bill 258. But in Sunday’s call, the Republican from Nelsonville says he meant that he does not sponsor or work on abortion legislation. Edwards also stressed that he “never said” he wouldn’t support such legislation. In fact, Edwards pointed out, that he also supported House Bill 258 when it was voted on in committee nearly a year ago.

The headline on the WOUB News story, “Edwards Votes For ‘Heartbeat’ Bill, Contradicting Pre-Election Stance,” was written with an incorrect assertion based on a statement that needed but had not received clarification. That was a mistake made by the people who work at WOUB News. That mistake in judgment ignited a firestorm on social media. Abortion, in general, and House Bill 258, specifically, are contentious topics on their own merits. How politicians vote and what they mean when they speak to their constituencies is key information for our society. We must report how our elected officials interact with policies that affect us and our families with due diligence.

We apologize for our error.

As journalists, our goal at WOUB News is to research, write, and produce accurate information on behalf of our audiences in Southeast Ohio while serving as an honest learning space for college students who want to be media professionals. We have integrity and take the role of being trustworthy advocates of factual storytelling seriously. We appreciate your patience and understanding when we fall short of our goals.

As Editor-in-Chief of WOUB News, I have made the decision to remove the social media posts and the link to the original story on our website – not to hide our mistake but to keep our mistake from continuing to be shared. While we “can’t unring a bell” we can take corrective measures. To those who shared the original story, please share this one as well.

We messed up. And now we have to move forward with the goal of doing better during the next opportunity. Tomorrow morning we’ll be back in the newsroom to do just that.


This article includes a correction to the number of votes cast in favor of the “heartbeat bill.”