JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Missouri lawmaker who posted on Facebook that he hoped whoever vandalized a Confederate monument in southwest Missouri would be hanged said Thursday that he doesn’t plan on resigning, despite criticism from state leaders and some calls for him to step down.
“My constituents voted me in, and my constituents will vote me out,” Republican Rep. Warren Love told The Associated Press, adding that until his constituents ask him to step down, “I am still going to serve them as their voice in Jefferson City.”
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and other Democratic leaders have called on Love to step down.
Missouri Republican Gov. Eric Greitens said in tweets Thursday that Love should go, but he also used the occasion to reiterate the same for 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 later 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.
In his post Wednesday, Love wrote that he hoped whoever vandalized the Confederate monument in Springfield is “found & hung from a tall tree with a long rope.” He also has since apologized.
Missouri Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Alan Green was among those who described the post as a call for lynchings, and in a letter to the House speaker asked that representatives consider formally reprimanding and expelling Love.
“Lynchings were used in Missouri as a tool of terror to kill and intimidate African-Americans into silence,” Green wrote in the Thursday letter. “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.”
But Love told AP his constituents support him and agree with his comment, which he called “old cowboy slang.”
“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 in a Thursday statement. “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 is a cattle 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.
Love also said he’s gotten calls from several fellow Republican House members who said they’re with him “rock solid.” He declined to say which representatives are backing him. And while Republican House Speaker Todd Richardson condemned Love’s statement, Richardson also said he’s “grateful” Love apologized and did not explicitly ask him to resign. In a statement, Richardson said “the people of this state and this nation deserve public servants who elevate the level of discussion rather than engage in irresponsible rhetoric.”
GOP Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, who has been outspoken about Chappelle-Nadal’s ouster, in a Thursday statement said he agreed with Greitens that Love should face consequences. But he also stopped short of explicitly calling for Love to step down and said it’s up to House members to decide whether to discipline him.
“I hope they will follow the Senate’s lead and help ensure a return to civility in political discourse,” Parson said.
Love’s 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 an avowed white supremacist. The pace has picked up since violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12.
Love told AP 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.
Love also said a reference he made to the “black negro” during a January House hearing was quoted from an article he was reading about labor policy. He said a February Facebook post in which he said that Abraham Lincoln “was the greatest tyrant and despot in American history” was an editorial someone else wrote and added that “anything in that editorial I did not say.”