JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said Thursday that a fellow Republican state lawmaker should not be in office after posting on Facebook that he hoped whoever vandalized a Confederate monument in southwest Missouri is found and hanged.
Greitens on Twitter condemned the comment by Rep. Warren Love, who in a Wednesday post said he hoped whoever vandalized the Springfield monument with paint is “found & hung from a tall tree with a long rope.”
While calling out Love, Greitens also reiterated calls for consequences against Democratic state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who earlier in August posted and later deleted a comment on Facebook about hoping for President Donald Trump’s assassination. She’s since apologized.
“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,” Greitens tweeted.
Shortly after Greitens’ tweet, Love released a statement apologizing and saying he doesn’t support “violent or hateful acts toward the perpetrator of the crime.” He did not say he would step down.
“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. “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.”
Missouri’s Republican House Speaker Todd Richardson in a statement did not explicitly call on Love to step down, instead saying “the people of this state and this nation deserve public servants who elevate the level of discussion rather than engage in irresponsible rhetoric” and adding that he was “grateful” Love apologized.
GOP Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, who has been outspoken about Chappelle-Nadal’s ouster, has not yet weighed in publicly on whether Love should resign or be expelled.
Top Missouri Democrats such as Sen. Claire McCaskill and the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus have condemned Love’s comment and called for him to leave office.
“Lynchings were used in Missouri as a tool of terror to kill and intimidate African-Americans into silence,” Black Caucus Chairman Alan Green wrote in a Thursday letter to Richardson asking that representatives consider formally reprimanding and expelling Love. “For an elected official to condone or incite this type of vigilantism is un-American, repulsive and unbecoming of a member of Missouri’s House of Representatives.”
Love is a rancher from Osceola, a city of fewer than 1,000 people that’s about an hour northwest of Springfield. He told AP he’s a dues-paying member of both the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and Sons of Confederate Veterans and said he’s proud of his heritage.
His post came amid growing national debate over Confederate monuments, which have been coming down around the country since the 2015 fatal shooting of nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a 23-year-old white racist. The pace has picked up since violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month.
Love told AP on Wednesday that he hopes his remark leads to a discussion of the penalties for vandalism in cemeteries, which he wants increased to a felony under Missouri law. Vandalism of cemeteries and military monuments is a misdemeanor in the state unless the value of the damage is $750 or more, in which case it’s a felony.
Love this year and in 2016 sponsored legislation meant to protect some state historic military monuments or other memorials, including ones for Confederates, from being moved or erected without public input and a vote of support from a state advisory council.
The Kansas City alternative weekly The Pitch also reported that Love in February posted on Facebook that Abraham Lincoln “was the greatest tyrant and despot in American history.”