The head of Ohio’s National Guard is under scrutiny after the release of a video that appears to show him pushing a reporter Wednesday during a broadcast of a speech by Gov. Mike DeWine, contradicting a statement the general made about the altercation.
Army Maj. Gen. John Harris, Ohio’s adjutant general, had claimed that he put his hands up to avoid the reporter bumping into him, but the video aired Thursday by NewsNation appears to show Harris initiating the altercation.
Ohio State Highway Patrol body camera footage released by the cable television network shows Harris moving toward Lambert as he records his report, poking his left hand into Lambert’s chest and pushing him backward. An Ohio law enforcement officer then proceeds to separate Harris, apparently to try to deescalate the situation.
In a statement, Harris told NewsNation he reflexively raised his hands to Lambert’s chest.
“He is a much larger person than I am,” Harris said. “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. I immediately removed my hands when there was space between us ― we were in contact for less than a second.”
His statement contradicts the video, which appears to show him seeking out a stationary Lambert, raising his hand and pushing him backward as he speaks to him.
“Governor DeWine is aware of the OSHP Body Cam video,” Dan Tierney, DeWine’s press secretary, told Military Times on Friday. “While the video does not show the complete interaction between Mr. Lambert and Major General Harris, the video is consistent with both Lambert’s and Harris’ statements regarding the incident.”
The video cuts away for a split second as Harris walks toward Lambert, then moves back to the altercation as Harris pushes Lambert.
Asked to clarify how Harris’s statement of putting up his hands in self-defense is consistent with the video of him poking his hand into Lambert’s chest, Tierney said the statement reflected how Harris felt during the interaction.
Harris did not address why he got involved in the situation at the outset, when state police approached Lambert as he reported.
The Ohio National Guard did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The National Guard Bureau referred all comments to Ohio, as Harris’s full-time Guard status puts him under direct command of the state’s governor.
Harris took over as the adjutant general in 2019, after eight years as the assistant adjutant general.
Police approached Lambert and asked him to leave during DeWine’s speech at an elementary school in East Palestine on Wednesday, arresting and charging him after he refused to stop reporting, the Associated Press reported.
DeWine told NewsNation that he was “shocked” when he learned of Lambert’s arrest, adding that he had done many public engagements over his career and understood that television reporters often do live or taped reporting during them.
“That person had a right to be reporting. They should have been allowed to report,” he said. “If they were in any way hampered from reporting, that certainly is wrong and it’s not anything that I approve of.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.