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GOP lawmaker faces calls for resignation after Facebook post on Confederate statue vandalism

Rep. Warren Love (center) speaks with Rep. Eric Burlison (right) during the 2016 legislative session.
File photo | Tim Bommel | House Communications
Rep. Warren Love, center, speaks with Rep. Eric Burlison, right, during the 2016 legislative session.

Updated August 31 at 4 p.m. with comments from Love and Gov. Greitens:

Republican Gov. Eric Greitens and Democratic elected officials are calling for a Republican lawmaker from southwest Missouri to step down after he posted on Facebook that people who defaced a Confederate statue should be “hung from a tall tree with a long rope.”

Rep. Warren Love's GOP legislative colleagues are also condemning the Osceola Republican after he posted his reaction to the news that someone threw paint on a Confederate memorial at the Springfield National Cemetery. He wrote: “This is totally against the law. I hope they are found & hung from a tall tree with a long rope.”

Hours after Love made the post, numerous Democrats called for the three-term lawmaker to resign. That included U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., as well as House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty.

"Monuments to the Confederacy are monuments to white supremacy; there is no separating the two. While vandalism is a crime, its punishment is not extra-judicial murder," Beatty, D-Kansas City, said in a statement. "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, and for that he must resign."

On Thursday afternoon, Greitens sent out two tweets saying that Love should step down:

Love did not return a phone call from St. Louis Public Radio. He told the Springfield News-Leader that he had “stirred up a hornet's nest” with what he called “cowboyism” and a “stupid comment.” He also told Missourinet that he didn’t feel the comment had racial overtones.

In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, Love said he was "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."

"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," Love said. "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.”

Rep. Michael Butler, D-St. Louis, said Love’s comments are especially egregious after members of both parties called for Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal to resign after she posted a Facebook comment hoping for President Donald Trump’s assassination.

“I’m pretty sure the Republican leaders know about Warren Love’s comments,” Butler said on Thursday morning. “And they have set a standard and set a precedent to how they react to these types of posts. And they could just copy and paste the same statement they made about Maria Chappelle-Nadal and say that about Warren Love. It isn’t hard. But I think there clearly is a double standard with Republicans when it comes to this.”

Earlier this year, Love stoked controversy on social media when he posted an article on Facebook declaring that former President Abraham Lincoln was “the greatest tyrant and despot in American history.” He also used the term “black Negro” during a January committee hearing.

“Warren Love has made consistent racially-charged comments about African-Americans — especially during the legislative session,” Butler said.

Republican reaction

Greitens wasn't the only Republican official who criticized Love — or suggested he should step down. 

Speaker of the House Rep. Todd Richardson.
Credit File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Speaker of the House Rep. Todd Richardson

Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, who has called for Chappelle-Nadal to be expelled from the Senate, said Love's "recent social media post is unacceptable and inexcusable." State Rep. Rob Vescovo, R-Jefferson County, said Love's punishment "should be equal to any" imposed on Chappelle-Nadal. 

Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City, tweetedthat “electeds' hoping for POTUS assassination and hoping for lynchings are beyond the pale. Unacceptable discourse. #MoLeg must do better.” And state Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, tweeted that “hoping for people to be hung/lynched” over vandalism is “way over the line.”

House Speaker Todd Richardson, who tweeted that he agreed with a fellow lawmaker that Chappelle-Nadal should resign, said Love's social media comments were "unacceptable."

"I am grateful that he has apologized for the extremely poor decision he made to post them," Richardson said. "Public servants should not and cannot participate in the kind of speech that could motivate others to do harm."

Speaking to reporters in St. Louis today, U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner criticized Love's "horribly offensive remarks." The Ballwin Republican said the comments had no place in "politics, government or the public discourse."

As to whether Love, and Chappelle-Nadal, should resign, Wagner replied: "That's up to the state legislature to decide. I personally would not feel comfortable serving alongside them."

Dogan said Love and Chappelle-Nadal were both "really stupid in what they posted, but I haven't called on either one of them to resign." He emphasized that both lawmakers should be treated equally. 

He also said both episodes may be a cautionary tale about how politicians handle social media.

"I think part of this has to do with the spirit of President Trump. People really want authenticity, people are tired of political correctness — which is refreshing in a sense," said Dogan, who is the only African-American Republican member of the Missouri General Assembly. "But if political correctness is the only thing standing between murder and the opposite, then maybe we need a little more political correctness."

St. Louis Public Radio reporter Jo Mannies contributed information for this story.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.