Government & Politics

Missouri lawmaker hopes Confederate monument vandal is ‘hung from a tall tree’

A Missouri lawmaker is taking heavy criticism for his reaction to the vandalization of a Confederate memorial.

“I hope they are found & hung from a tall tree with a long rope,” wrote Rep. Warren Love, an Osceola Republican, on Wednesday.

Love was reacting to a story that a vandal had placed paint on a monument in the Springfield National Cemetery.

The post was an allusion to lynchings, according to Rep. Alan Green, the chairman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus.

Green released a statement denouncing Love’s comments.

“It is tragic that this needs to be said, for an elected official to hope for a lynching as retribution for vandalizing a Confederate statue is wrong,” he wrote, adding that the post incites vigilantism.

Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Parson wrote on Twitter that Love’s post is “unacceptable and inexcusable.” Parson has not called for Love’s resignation, however, as he did for Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal after she wrote on Facebook that she hoped President Donald Trump is assassinated.

Love, in a phone conversation with The Star, could not recall the apology he had written on Facebook and declined to give one over the phone.

“I’m sitting here trying to remember it and I really can’t,” he said.

As an explanation for the post, he said, “I’m a western man. I’ve worn boots and hats all my life. ... I’m apt to say anything in an analogy.”

Over the phone, he joked about how a friend had corrected him, saying he should have written a “short rope” rather than a long one in his post.

Love forwarded his apology in a Facebook message to The Star. (The original post and accompanying apology is not public on Facebook.)

“What I said was a stupid remark and I am Sorry to everyone that it offends,” Love wrote.

He added he had not intended to incite violence in calling for a public hanging, and that he “was only using and (sic) old Cowboy Statement that is a western custom of a penalty for Thieves that steal Cattle & Horses.”

Love had previously called Abraham Lincoln “the greatest tyrant and despot in American history,” The Pitch reported.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill issued a statement about Love’s comments.

“Representative Love should resign for his unacceptable comments,” McCaskill said.

House Minority Leader Gail Beatty, a Kansas City Democrat, released a statement that read in part:

“In calling for the lynching of those who vandalized a Confederate statute in Springfield, state Rep. Warren Love invoked a form of political violence used throughout the South to keep African-Americans subjugated for generations following the fall of the Confederacy,” Beatty said, “and for that he must resign.”

Stephen Webber, the chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party, also called for Love’s resignation.

“Calls for political violence are unacceptable,” he wrote on Twitter.

Love said he will not delete the post, which came two weeks after Chappelle-Nadal called for Trump’s assassination. The University City Democrat has rejected calls from Sen. Claire McCaskill, Webber and others to resign.

At about 2:45 p.m. Thursday, Love released an additional apology:

“I do not in any way support violent or hateful acts toward the perpetrator of the crime,” he wrote in part. “I apologize for using inappropriate and offensive language to convey these thoughts and ask for the forgiveness of my colleagues, constituents, and all Missourians.”

Gov. Eric Greitens, who called for Chappelle-Nadal’s resignation the day of her post about Trump, posted on Twitter:

“First, Sen. Chappelle-Nadal called for POTUS to be assassinated. Now, Rep. Love has called for people in Missouri to be hanged from trees,” Greitens wrote. “Leaders in MO need to do better & I don't think the Sen or Rep should be representing the people of MO; both should face same consequences.”

House Speaker Todd Richardson, a Poplar Bluff Republican, did not call for Love’s resignation in a statement released Thursday.

“The comments made on social media by Representative Love are unacceptable,” he wrote. “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.”

Green of the Black Caucus expressed hope that Love is held to the same standard of accountability as Chappelle-Nadal, who was removed from her committees after her assassination comment, which elicited bipartisan condemnation.

“Representative Love must resign,” Green said. “Even if he did not contemplate acting on his own words, those words can inspire, and similar words have inspired, African-Americans to be lynched in the state of Missouri.”

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg