State Rep. Warren Love, R-Osceola, has avoided punishment by the Missouri House Ethics Committee for expressing on Facebook that confederate vandals should be “hung from a tall tree with a long rope.” The committee voted Thursday to formally discipline Love and suggested that Love be stripped of his committee duties. He initially agreed that he would accept the committee’s decision, but later had a change of heart – effectively derailing any formal consequences.
The room was crammed with people for the two-hour hearing, including several members of Missouri’s Legislative Black Caucus.
State Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, grilled Love for several minutes. She asked Love why he chose the controversial phrasing that he did. Love has maintained that his comment was not racial and instead an old “cowboy-ism.”
“I could’ve used the quote taken them to the wood shed or nail their hide to the wall or any numerous things,” said Love.
“You also could’ve said like arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Mitten.
“That’s what I meant,” said Love.
“But those are the words that you used,” said Mitten.
“Well, you know, sometimes when you make a point, you want to get an expression across, you use what you call a colloquial statement,” said Love. “I almost wrote ‘This is a crime. Totally against the law.’ My grand daddy used to say ‘When somebody done something like that, they ought to have their back split and their leg run through it.’ That’s what I almost wrote.”
“But you chose not to write that in your post,” said Mitten.
“I didn’t want to face my wife with that kind of statement,” said Love.
Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, said she finds it “almost impossible” that Love didn’t “connect the dots” with a lynching.
“You know me well enough. If I was going to say lynching, I would’ve said lynching,” said Love.
“But you talk about colloquial talk and connotations. The connotation of what you said, I just think you’re smarter than thinking it has no meaning in regards to race,” Haefner said. “Where I come from, this is not cowboy talk. It’s not acceptable and when you take the big picture of what was going on in our nation at that time and the fact that this was defacing a Confederate statue, I don’t understand how you could interpret this any other way but to be calling out a race and a punishment.”
Love has apologized during two Missourinet interviews. During Thursday’s hearing, Love also apologized but said he was not admitting he did anything wrong.
Rep. Steve Lynch, R-Waynesville, questioned Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, if she knows what Love meant by the post.
“I can tell you how I felt. I can tell you what I’ve experienced from reading it. I can’t tell you necessarily what is in his mind,” said McCann Beatty. “What I can say is that we’ve seen a number of statements from Representative Love that definitely suggest that these are racist statements.”
Lynch went on to ask her what the vandals looked like.
“I have no idea what they look like. Let’s be clear, at no point in time have I said anything that these people should not be punished,” she said. “Let’s also be clear that my remonstrance has zero to do with the fact that the monument was defaced. My remonstrance has to do with Representative Love’s response. We need to stop changing the narrative. It was inappropriate for a legislator to call for a lynching.”
Lynch indicated that McCann Beatty should have clarified with Love what he meant by his remark and that some might have a different take of Love’s statement.
“First of all, calling for a lynching is inappropriate period,” she said.
“Well I believe we can look at that in a bit,” said Lynch. “So you don’t know who?”
“I wasn’t there,” she said.
McCann Beatty says she will ask House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, to remove Love from all legislative committees.
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