Ohio Arts Council board member Susan Allan Block resigned on Friday, January 8, following social media comments in which she referred to incoming vice president Kamala Harris as a “whore” and called for “no peace” during the recent pro-Trump mob attack on the United States Capitol.
Block’s incendiary comments on social media propagated President Trump’s lies about election fraud while directing vulgar threats at Harris and president-elect Joe Biden, whom she called an “illegitimate president.” Block has since made her Facebook page private and deleted her Twitter account, but screenshots of her comments have been circulating on social media.
“NO PEACE! NO UNITY! NO CONCESSION,” Block wrote in a since-deleted Facebook comment, first surfaced by Blade journalist Nolan Rosenkrans. “THERE WILL BE NO ‘HEALING,'” she continued. “WE WILL DRAG THIS ILLEGITIMATE PRESIDENT, HIS WHORE VP AND ALL OF THE DEMOCRATS THROUGH THE SAME SHIT THEY DRAGGED PRESIDENT TRUMP & HIS SUPPORTERS THROUGH FOR THE LAST 5 YEARS!”
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Block made similar comments on Twitter, writing, “THIS ELECTION WAS A TOTAL FRAUD!!”
The backlash was soon to follow, with local artists, art organizations, museums, and politicians calling for Block’s immediate removal from the arts council.
Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC) President and CEO Tom Katzenmeyer sent a letter to Ohio governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted on Friday morning, requesting Block’s removal from the council’s board.
“Incendiary hate speech cannot be tolerated in Ohio, let alone by a high-ranking government appointee,” Katzenmeyer wrote in his letter.
Block, a resident of Toledo, was first appointed to the arts council in 2016 by former Ohio Governor John Kasich. DeWine, a Republican who supported Trump’s re-election, reappointed her in July 2019 for a term that was supposed to end in 2024.
Prior to Block’s resignation, DeWine said in a comment to the Columbus Dispatch that her “comments are highly offensive and do not represent the views of this administration.” On Friday, he announced that he accepted her resignation.
Donna S. Collins, executive director of the Ohio Arts Council, had initially refused to respond to the demands to remove Block, saying in a statement that “agency staff does not comment on the personal opinions of its sitting board members.”
After Block’s resignation, Collins released another statement, adding: “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.”
The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NWMA) has also cut ties with Block, who was an advisory board member for the Washington, DC, museum.
“Her recent comments are reprehensible and are antithetical to the values of NWMA,” said the museum’s director, Susan Fisher Sterling, in a Friday statement on Twitter.
This is not the first time that Block had made inflammatory comments on social media. In 2019, she shared Islamophobic conspiracy theories about the Notre Dame fire in Paris. And according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, after DeWine tweeted a conciliatory message during the Black Lives Matter protests last May, affirming the protesters’ First Amendment rights, she replied: “What is happening is nothing less than domestic terrorism! How dare (you) condone these animals!”
Block is married to Allan Block, chairman of Block Communications, Inc., a publisher that owns the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade newspapers.
On January 7, journalists at the Blade, who are unionized with the Toledo NewsGuild, announced a byline strike, removing their names from their stories and photos in the newspaper to protest pro-Trump editorial changes to their stories about the insurrection at the US Capitol last week.
“Management at The Blade manipulated wording in headlines, stories, and photo captions to alter the reality of what occurred during the insurrection at the Capitol,” a statement by the guild said, also calling Block’s comments on social media “disgusting.”
Block Communications has not responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.