Political Idiocracy: Driving and Using a Zoom Background — While Debating Legislation on 'Distracted Driving'

Mustafa Kamaci/Turkish Presidency via AP

The winner of this week’s “Superior Achievement in the Field of Political Idiocracy” is GOP Ohio state Senator Andrew Brenner, who participated via video conference in the Ohio Legislature’s Controlling Board Committee debate on legislation concerning “distracted driving.”

The meeting was conducted via Zoom, and Brenner attempted to use a couple of different virtual backgrounds behind him.  To do so, he needed to handle his cell phone and pick a background to appear.  But, that was just the beginning of the fun.

As is obvious, Brenner is actually in his car during the meeting, which can be seen at the beginning before he switches to a virtual background. Prior to switching to the background, it appears that Brenner’s car is parked.

But, just a few moments later, you can see that Brenner has put on his seat belt, which is visible across his chest. He is also repeatedly looking to both his left and his right, making it quite obvious that his car is no longer stationary, as he participates in the discussion.

The legislation being discussed would increase the penalties for “distracted driving” — or handling a cell phone while driving.

When Brenner was asked about the video by a reporter, he attempted to play it off as if it was no big deal. He claimed that he wasn’t paying attention to the video, he was only listening to the audio as he would with any telephone call in the car while driving.

“I wasn’t distracted. I was paying attention to the driving and listening to it,” Brenner said to the Dispatch. “I had two meetings that were back to back that were in separate locations. And I’ve actually been on other calls, numerous calls, while driving.”

“Phone calls for the most part but on video calls, I’m not paying attention to the video,” Brenner continued. “To me, it’s like a phone call.”

That explanation would have been fine but for the fact that the video feed showed him handling the phone, and using the virtual background feature on the Zoom App.  If he was going to truly use only the audio feature, there was no need to use the virtual background — he could have simply turned off the camera and had his name appear on the screens of other participants.

Instead, he created an embarrassing segment of videotape now widely circulated on social media, where it is obvious what he is doing — he’s driving, seatbelt visible, while the image on the screen behind him looks like a home office.

For that accomplishment, he’s earned Political Idiot of the Week.