Government & Politics

Reprimand, but not expulsion, for Missouri lawmaker who hoped for Trump assassination

Did race play a role in censure of Missouri Democrat?

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard is asked whether he worries about the public's reaction to lawmakers more severely punishing an African American woman than a white man for violent Facebook posts.
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Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard is asked whether he worries about the public's reaction to lawmakers more severely punishing an African American woman than a white man for violent Facebook posts.

The Democratic legislator who posted on Facebook that she hoped President Donald Trump would be assassinated was formally reprimanded Wednesday by a vote of her Senate colleagues.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democrat from University City, was not expelled from the Senate, which Republican lawmakers had been threatening for weeks. Instead, the Senate approved a resolution censuring her, the first time in Missouri history a sitting senator has been censured.

The vote to censure was 28-2. The only other African American members of the Senate — Democratic Sens. Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis and Kiki Curls of Kansas City — were the only votes in opposition.

But Republicans made it clear Wednesday afternoon that they may still consider kicking her out of the Senate when lawmakers return to session in January.

“At a time in our country where there are some rough spots that we’ve experienced, hatred on either side of the debate is not welcome in policy discussions,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, a Jefferson City Republican who introduced the resolution censuring Chappelle-Nadal.

Meanwhile, in the House, no action was taken against Rep. Warren Love, an Osceola Republican who called on Facebook for vandals of a Confederate memorial in Springfield to be “hung from a tall tree with a long rope.”

“His comments are absolutely out of line,” said House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, a Kansas City Democrat. “And clearly he’s not apologetic about it, because if he was he’d remove it from his Facebook page.”

Lawmakers were back in Jefferson City on Wednesday for the annual veto session. With a Republican governor and a Republican-dominated General Assembly, there was little expectation that much action would take place.

Instead, much of the focus in the weeks leading up to the veto session was on social media posts encouraging violence and whether Chappelle-Nadal and Love should be forced out of the legislature.

Chappelle-Nadal said she posted the comment out of frustration with the “trauma and despair” the president was causing with his statements about the events in Charlottesville, Va., where Trump said “both sides” were to blame for violence that included an alleged white supremacist driving his car into a crowd, killing a 32-year-old woman.

She deleted the comment, which was posted on her private Facebook page, and publicly apologized, saying, “I made a mistake. And I’m owning up to it.”

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal was adamant Friday that she isn’t resigning over a Facebook post calling for President Donald Trump’s assassination. Chappelle-Nadal, a University City Democrat, has faced calls by Missouri’s top Democrats and Republican

Despite her apology, Republicans continued calling for her resignation. After meeting for several hours on Wednesday, however, GOP leadership realized there was not enough support to call the Senate back into special session to expel Chappelle-Nadal.

Kehoe said the option remains on the table when session starts again in 2018.

Sen. Denny Hoskins, a Warrensburg Republican, said he still supports expulsion and publicly asked Chappelle-Nadal to resign.

“We as elected officials have a higher standard that we must set for ourselves,” he said. “Mistakes are made, but actions do have consequences.”

Chappelle-Nadal said Wednesday that she has no intention of resigning because her constituents don’t want her to step down.

“I’ve had an overwhelming number of people in my district ask me not to (resign,)” she said. “They want me to continue to serve because of the work I do. They understand I made a mistake, and I’ve owned up to it from the very beginning.”

Lt. Gov. Mike Parson says the Senate should vote next week to kick out Democratic Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal over her Facebook comment hoping for the president's assassination.

Love also apologized for his Facebook post, but he has refused to delete the post. He said he had not intended to incite violence in calling for a public hanging, chalking up the statement to “cowboy talk.”

“I’m a western man. I’ve worn boots and hats all my life,” Love told The Star previously. “I’m apt to say anything in an analogy.”

McCann Beatty noted that while Republicans were quick to denounce Chappelle-Nadal and call for her to resign, they were not so enthusiastic about forcing Love to step down.

McCann Beatty said Love’s comment encouraging violence means he’s forfeited his right to remain in the Missouri House. She introduced a resolution asking for the House to formally reprimand Love.

Rep. Gina Mitten, a St. Louis Democrat, contrasted House Speaker Todd Richardson’s reaction in 2016 to reports that former Rep. Don Gosen was cheating on his wife to his reaction to Love’s Facebook post.

Richardson immediately called for Gosen to step down, something he’s declined to do regarding Love.

“We’re not going to tolerate a guy having an extramarital affair,” Mitten said. “But a guy calling for murder? That’s cool.”

Richardson said there is never a time when it’s appropriate to make a call to violence.

He said the House ethics committee will discuss McCann Beatty’s resolution.

“All options will be on the table moving forward,” he said, later adding that the committee’s work will be wrapped up before lawmakers return to session in January.

“I’m not going to prejudge the actions of the ethics committee or give them any kind of specific direction.”

Jason Hancock: 573-634-3565, @J_Hancock

The Star's editorial board Facebook Live featured Missouri Republican Party chairman Todd Graves on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, talking with editorial board members Colleen McCain Nelson and Melinda Henneberger. In this clip, Graves comments on his