A US politician has come in for criticism and ridicule after trying to cover up the fact he was driving his car during a Zoom meeting by speaking with a fake background of his home office behind him.
Ohio Republican Senator Andrew Brenner might have gotten away with his deception during the call with the state’s Controlling Board had it not been for the fact his seatbelt was visible for large portions of the meeting.
To make matters worse, the incident occurred on the same day a bill introduced by Brenner calling for a ban on distracted driving was announced.
The Columbus Dispatch first reported on the story of Brenner’s online meeting mishap which unfolded after he was first called into the meeting.
Initially he could be seen sitting in his car with a seatbelt across his chest.
However, within a few minutes the senator’s background abruptly changed to that of an ordinary living room. It might have passed without incident were it not for the presence of the aforementioned seatbelt or the fact Brenner was clearly driving.
At one point, he even looked both ways, in a clear indication he was preparing to pull out.
But rather than pull out of the meeting on the day his distracted driving bill was announced, the Republic opted to press on.
Under the proposed law change, it would become a secondary offence for any adult over 18 to be caught holding an electronic device while driving.
That means police would have to stop them for another reason before they would face a penalty for holding a digital device.
Under state law in Ohio, there are currently no rules prohibiting the use of such devices, save for restrictions on texting while driving.
“A recent survey found that distracted driving is overwhelmingly the number one concern for Ohio drivers,” Republican state Rep Cindy Abrams explained.
“The goal of this bill is to make our state a safer place to travel and reduce the amount of deaths and injuries on our roads.”
An estimated 3,142 Americans were killed in 2019 alone as a result of distracted driving.
Under Brenner’s bill, it would become an offence for anyone using phones for photos, videos or GPS with Zoom calls likely to fall under this category.
Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine had planned to include provisions against distracted driving in an upcoming budget proposal.
“Ohio’s current laws don’t go far enough to change the culture around distracted driving, and people are dying because of it,” DeWine said.
“Distracted driving is a choice that must be as culturally unacceptable as drunk driving is today, and strengthening our current laws will lead to more responsible driving.”
Despite the apparent hypocrisy at the heart of Brenner’s blunder, the Ohio lawmaker has defended his actions as necessary due to his busy schedule.
“I wasn’t distracted. I was paying attention to the driving and listening to it. I had two meetings that were back-to-back that were in separate locations,” he said.
He also claims to frequently take calls while driving his car in an apparent shunning of the rules he seems eager to introduced.
“I’ve actually been on other calls, numerous calls, while driving,” he said. “Phone calls for the most part but on video calls, I’m not paying attention to the video. To me, it’s like a phone call.”
Though he claimed there was no issue in him taking the call while driving, critics have been quick to point to the fact Brenner opted to change his background.
The Republican politician has so far failed to explain away this particular element of the blunder.