Lawmakers take to social media to condemn; Vescovo, Greitens call for punishment “equal” to Chappelle-Nadal
JEFFERSON CITY – Weeks after a Democratic Senator commented she hoped the President would be assassinated on Facebook, Republican Rep. Warren Love called for vandals of a Confederate Civil War monument in a veterans cemetery in Springfield to be “found & hung from a tall tree.”
This comes after a series of efforts made by towns to remove statues that honor generals and commanders from the Confederate Army. These efforts have caused the KKK, white supremacists, and neo-fascist Nazis to protest in Charlottesville, and the death of Heather Heyer. After a statement from the President – which was nationally condemned – many came to the President’s defense as well as advocates for keeping Civil War monuments.
The day after the President came to Springfield to speak about his upcoming tax plan, vandals took to a Confederate monument and painted on the statue. It is not clear what they wrote or what their intentions are behind the graffiti. The Greenville Sheriff’s Department is investigating the event.
In the early afternoon on Thursday, Love shared an article from KY3 News on Facebook around 2:00 p.m. Wednesday saying, “This is totally against the law. I hope they are found & hung from a tall tree with a long rope. National Veterans Cemetery in Springfield, Mo.”
While the vandals appear to be white, Love’s imagery appears to be reminiscent of Jim Crow-Era lynchings. He spoke to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, denying that he was calling for the protesters to be lynched. Instead, he defended his comments on Facebook saying, “I did not mean it that way and was only using [an] old Cowboy Statement that is a Western custom for Thieves that steal Cattle and Horses.”
“I am deeply sorry for the extremely poor choice of words I used to convey my frustration with the act of vandalism that took place at the Springfield National Cemetery,” Love said in a statement at 2:45 p.m. on Thursday. “Where I am from the expression I used simply means we should prosecute the offender to the fullest extent of the law, but I understand how what I wrote offended those who saw it as advocating for violence. I do not in any way support violent or hateful acts toward the perpetrator of the crime. I apologize for using inappropriate and offensive language to convey these thoughts and ask for the forgiveness of my colleagues, constituents, and all Missourians.”
House leadership showed appreciation for his apology shortly after the apology was issued.
“The people of this state and this nation deserve public servants who elevate the level of discussion rather than engage in irresponsible rhetoric,” Speaker Todd Richardson said in a statement. “The comments made on social media by Representative Love are unacceptable. I am grateful that he has apologized for the extremely poor decision he made to post them. Public servants should not and cannot participate in the kind of speech that could motivate others to do harm.”
Democratic Rep. Brandon Ellington shared his comments on Facebook, asking for Missouri lawmakers to pay more attention to what they say online. Ellington responded to Love’s attempt to clarify his statements, by insinuating Love’s comments were racially motivated, “You’re starting to create a scary narrative. During session you wrote that Abraham Lincoln was a tyrant and now you’re saying that it should be felony charges associated with confederate monument vandalism.”
Rep. Rob Vescovo went ahead and pushed for ramifications for Love, saying, “Under no circumstances should an elected official, or anyone for that matter, be making hateful and divisive comments. Calling for the murder of anyone is unacceptable, and Representative Love should be held accountable for his comments. His punishment should be equal to any imposed upon Senator Chappelle-Nadal.”
Fellow Republican representatives, like Kevin Corlew, have already condemned Love’s comments saying on Twitter, “Elected’s [officials] hoping for the assignation of US President and hoping for lynchings are beyond the pale. Unacceptable discourse. [The Missouri Legislation] must do better.”
Rep. Shamed Dogan was one of the first to condemn the statements, calling it “Way over the line!!”
Gov. Eric Greitens’ followed Vescovo after 2:30 p.m. in saying both Chappelle-Nadal and Love should have “same consequences.”
Lt. Gov. Mike Parson echoed the Governor in a statement.
“Representative Warren Love’s recent social media post is unacceptable and inexcusable,” Parson said. “Regardless of the context or situation, no elected official should call for violence against anyone. I agree with Governor Greitens that Representative Love must face the consequences for his actions.
“As President of the Missouri Senate, I will continue to hold the Senate to a high standard of conduct. Ultimately, it will be up to the members of the Missouri House of Representatives to decide if any disciplinary action should be taken. I hope they will follow the Senate’s lead and help ensure a return to civility in political discourse.”
House Democratic leadership made a statement Wednesday evening. This story will be updated.
Michael Layer is a reporter for the Missouri Times and the Missouri Times Magazine. He joined the Missouri Times in August 2017 after graduating from Goucher College the previous May. To contact Michael, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @_MichaelLayer