Matt Robinson profile picture Matt Robinson a year ago

Senator Attends Virtual Meeting While Driving, Tries To Hide It With Fake Background

Ohio State Senator Andrew Brenner used a virtual background of a home office to poorly mask the fact he was in a car at the time

Remind me later

With the global pandemic forcing a lot of meetings online, particularly for those who might not be so familiar with the kind of technology used to facilitate this, viral hilarity is inevitable. Who can forget “You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver,” or the lawyer who had to tell a judge, “I’m not a cat,” after accidentally applying a feline-themed filter?

The latest online meeting fail to be making waves on social media concerns cars. On 3 May, Ohio State Senator Andrew Brenner joined a 13-minute Ohio Controlling Board meeting while driving, which on its own wouldn’t have been particularly noteworthy, however inadvisable doing so might have been.

What’s catapulted Brenner to online infamy is his shoddy attempts to make it look otherwise - he used an image of a home office as a virtual background on meeting platform Zoom. As if it didn’t look fake enough already, Brenner’s seatbelt was clearly visible, and at points, he could be seen looking both ways at junctions.

Screen grab via Twitter/The Ohio Channel
Screen grab via Twitter/The Ohio Channel

Brenner defended his actions, claiming he was parked up for much of the call, and he was paying attention to the road whenever he was driving. He told The Columbus Dispatch:

“I wasn’t distracted. I was paying attention to the driving and listening to it [the meeting]…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. To me, it’s like a phone call.”

That last part falls a little flat since Brenner could be seen fiddling with the phone at times during the call. It’s also worth pointing out that research from various bodies indicates taking calls via a hands-free system still significantly increases your chance of crashing.

Adding a nice dose of irony to the affair, Ohio Bill 283, aimed at tweaking the law when it comes to distracted driving and the use of electronic devices in cars, was being discussed the same day. Contrary to some claims on social media, however, this wasn’t discussed during Brenner’s meeting.