By Shelley Davis
Columbus Enquirer Bureau
COLUMBUS - The leader of the Ohio Republican Party wants a GOP state lawmaker to publicly apologize for suggesting that Cincinnati Democratic Sen. Mark Mallory is illiterate.
Party Chairman Bob Bennett singled out Rep. Timothy Grendell on Friday, saying the Chesterland Republican stepped out of bounds in a public dispute with Mallory over whether Ohio should ratify the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Bennett outlined his issues with Grendell in a letter to House Speaker Larry Householder.
"I've known Tim for a number of years and consider him a friend, but I was offended by his remarks," Bennett said. "If I, as a fellow Republican, was offended, then who knows what the rest of Ohio might think?"
The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection and due process rights for all Americans. It was rescinded by Ohio lawmakers in 1868 after they declared it "contrary to the best interests of the white race."
House lawmakers re-ratified the amendment Wednesday, but not before some conservative Republicans objected, saying it has been used to take away states' rights to decide such issues as abortion and school prayer.
A war of words began when Mallory accused Grendell of trying to keep the amendment from being passed. Grendell fired back that he didn't think Mallory fully understood his arguments, which he'd written down in a memo.
"He's the only reason I might support the OhioReads program," Grendell said about Mallory in a Cleveland Plain Dealer article, referring to Gov. Bob Taft's volunteer tutoring program.
Although Grendell later said his comments were taken out of context, Democrat leaders demanded that Householder, R-Glenford, discipline Grendell.
Mallory, who said he was "shocked and very offended" by the remark, said he was surprised to find Bennett in his corner. Bennett said Republicans who control the General Assembly should do so with decorum and respect.
"We have the responsibility as the majority party to censure any of our own who get out of line," Bennett said.
Grendell offered a personal apology to Mallory by phone on Friday.
"My intention was never to offend Mallory. I thought it was somewhat of a clever retort to his attack on my memo," Grendell said. "I'm sorry what I said was misconstrued into something that Sen. Mallory took personally."
Mallory said he appreciated Grendell's personal apology but would welcome a public apology.
"As we are about to move into the most contentious budget process we've ever had, I'm concerned that if we get to the point where personal attacks are OK, it's going to be very hard to work together," Mallory said.
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