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No punishment for Warren Love over controversial Facebook post

Republican State Rep. Warren Love speaks with members of the audience of a House Ethics Committee hearing on Jan. 4, 2018.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Republican State Rep. Warren Love speaks with members of the audience of a House Ethics Committee hearing on Jan. 4, 2018.

A state representative from rural Missouri won’t face any punishment for a controversial Facebook post he made last summer.

The House Ethics Committee considered sanctions against Rep. Warren Love, R-Osceola, for a Facebook post in which he said vandals who defaced a Confederate monument should be “hung from a tall tree with a long rope.”

Love maintains that his comments were just “cowboy jargon.”

“I’m not admitting I did anything wrong,” he said. “(But) I am admitting that I made a statement that was taken out of context and offended certain people that took it to mean something that it did not mean. And I’m sorry for that.”

House Democrats said Love’s comments can be interpreted as promoting lynching of African-Americans.

“Rep. Love disingenuously claims that he never called for a lynching because he never used (that) word,” said Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City. “If for lunch you have a grilled ground beef patty with a slice of melted cheese on top, served on a bun, you’re eating a cheeseburger, regardless of whether you choose to call it that.”

While still saying he did nothing wrong, Love initially agreed to accept any discipline the House Ethics committee might levy. Later in the meeting the committee voted 6 to 4 to issue a written reprimand and to strip him of his committee assignments. Love then changed his mind and rejected the reprimand, which he had the power to do under House committee rules.

Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, then sponsored a motion to appoint an investigatory committee to further look into Love’s actions surrounding the Facebook post. It failed on a 5 to 5 tie vote, after which the hearing was adjourned.

Democrats on the committee were angered by Love’s reversal after first agreeing to accept punishment. But he told reporters afterward that he was confused about what the committee had asked of him and on what kinds of discipline they could impose.

“I should have said ‘no;’ me and my (attorney) were somewhat confused,” Love said. “Listen, I’m confused, they’re confused, and I can’t honestly tell a one of you what happened.”

Committee members did stand at ease for several minutes and privately discussed the situation before reconvening and discussing their options.

Mitten hopes that House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, will now take it upon himself to punish Love.

“Every single thing that I recommended in all of my motions, which is the removal from all committees, is something that the Speaker could have done immediately,” she said. “(He) could have done (it) in August, could have done (it) in September, October, November, December, and can still do in January or February.”

Richardson has not responded yet to our request for comment.

Follow Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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