The head of Ohio’s National Guard is drawing criticism after video showed him pushing a reporter at a press conference.
Newly released body camera footage shows part of the altercation, with Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr. arguing with NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert inside a gymnasium where Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was giving a press conference. The footage, released Thursday, appears to contradict Harris’ initial claim that he acted in self-defense. The incident was recorded by an Ohio State Trooper’s body camera. NewsNation released the footage, showing Harris approach Lambert and jab his chest. Police separate the two and then demand the reporter leave.
The altercation at the press conference led to Lambert being escorted out of the building and arrested.
Harris, the Ohio adjutant general, released a statement on the matter, shared by NewsNation, said that he initially approached Lambert and his cameraman to get them to quiet down as the press conference had begun. He said the reporters demanded he come over, which led to an argument and Lambert “grew enraged” and “lurched” at the general.
“He is a much larger person than I am. At that point, I was convinced he was prepared to do harm to me. I instinctively put my hands on his chest to keep him from bumping into me, which I felt was inevitable if I had not protected myself,” Harris said.
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East Palestine Police Department’s report on the incident shares similar details, saying that two Ohio State Highway Patrol officers and Harris went to stop Lambert’s live broadcast. Harris told police that Lambert was “coming at him, in an aggressive manner” and the general “feeling threatened” pushed him away.
The footage does not show the full moments before Harris shoved Lambert.
As of press time, the Ohio National Guard did not respond to requests for comment on the matter. A spokesman for the Ohio National Guard confirmed to Military.com that Harris is the soldier in the video, but did not comment further.
DeWine’s press conference was held to give an update on the situation at East Palestine, Ohio, where a train derailed on Feb. 3, causing a fire and releasing hazardous chemicals. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, Ohio authorities said that it was safe for residents to return.
At a Pentagon briefing on Friday, Feb. 10, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said that the Department of Defense does not condone Harris’ actions.
“That’s not acceptable behavior,” Ryder said. “The Secretary of Defense, the Department of Defense absolutely supports — strongly supports a free and independent press.”
Harris has served as adjutant general since 2019. He oversees a force of approximately 16,000 personnel.
The Ohio National Guard is currently working on cleaning up the site of the train derailment.
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