By Corky Siemaszko


Depending on who you talk to in Ohio, Dr. Amy Acton is the most loved — or the most loathed — woman in the state these days.

On one hand, Acton, the director of the state Department of Health, has drawn widespread praise for spearheading the fight against the coronavirus along with Gov. Mike DeWine.


The first woman to hold the post, Acton’s daily briefings have become must-see TV in the Buckeye State.

“Many Ohioans trust Dr. Acton because they sense that she not only understands what she's doing and how it justifies the policies being implemented, but also that she understands how difficult it is for her audience to accept the news that she is delivering and the restrictions that are being imposed on their lives,” said Christopher Devine, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Dayton.


On the other hand, Acton is now the target of angry Ohioans frustrated by the weeks of quarantine who are convinced the state overreacted to a threat that has claimed more than 1,270 lives in the state. Small but loud groups of demonstrators have picketed outside her house, drawing the ire of DeWine.

"I'm the elected official who ran for office. I'm the one who makes policy decisions. Members of my Cabinet work hard, but I set the policy," DeWine said. "You can demonstrate against me — that's fair game. To bother the family of Dr. Acton, that's not fair game. It's not right. It's not necessary. The buck stops here. I'm the responsible person."


But it's not just sign-carrying protesters who are mad at Acton. Just this week, the Republican-led Legislature moved to curb Acton’s powers even though she works for a GOP governor.

DeWine was also forced to defend Acton after a local GOP legislator compared her actions to save Ohioans from the coronavirus to what the Nazis did during the Holocaust. Acton is Jewish.

“Ohio is much more Republican at the state level than most Americans would think” Devine said, and it has a conservative Legislature that was already bristling at some of the steps DeWine and Acton took to shut down the state.


“In other ways, though, the backlash against Dr. Acton is probably a general venting of frustration against the difficult circumstances we face and the awful sacrifices they require,” Devine said.

There is also another factor at play, the professor added.

“Let’s be honest,” Devine said. “The fact is many of these restrictions are being announced and enacted by a woman in power, in a state that has put very few women in major leadership roles.”


Acton did not respond to a request for comment.