The reverberations of an anti-Muslim poster on display at the West Virginia Capitol rotunda continue, with the House Sergeant at Arms resigning and talk of possible discipline against a lawmaker who allegedly injured a doorkeeper Friday.
Sgt. at Arms Anne Lieberman resigned Friday afternoon after delegates accused her of using an anti-Muslim slur. “The sergeant of arms of this body had the nerve to say to us ‘all Muslims are terrorists’ that’s beyond shameful and that’s beyond freedom of speech,” Del. Michael Angelucci, D-Marion, said.
The poster that sparked the controversy consisted of two photos. The upper photo was a picture of the World Trade Center towers during the 9/11 attack. A caption read, “‘NEVER FORGET’ – YOU SAID..”
Below it was a photo of Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, wearing a hijab. Omar is Muslim, and was one of two Muslim women elected to Congress. That picture’s caption said, “I AM PROOF – YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN.”
The anti-Muslim display was outside the House of Delegates chamber as part of a “Republicans Take the Rotunda” event.
A lawmaker told us Friday evening that the House Rules Committee will meet at 8 a.m. Saturday to decide if Del. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, will face repercussions for allegedly injuring a doorkeeper during an angry outburst regarding the poster. Caputo is the minority whip in the House.
Caputo admitted to kicking the door because he wanted to get into the chamber and he said he was being blocked. “We have created an anger that I have never witnessed in 23 years in this body and it sickens me. It absolutely sickens me. So yeah, I kicked the door open I’ll own it,” Caputo said. The doorkeeper was taken to the hospital for evaluation.
Democrats in the House spoke out against the poster, saying it is the second hateful event to happen in that legislative body during this session. They referred back to when Del. Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, compared the LGBTQ community to the Ku Klux Klan.
“We have diverse caucus and many of our people believe that it is festered and it’s intolerable,” Del. Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, said.
Other delegates spoke up during the floor session and said, no matter the message, they will protect the voice of the person who put that poster on display. “While I may not agree with everything that is out there, I do agree that freedom of speech is something that we have to protect,” Del. Dianna Graves, R-Kanawha, said.
When House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, addressed the House, he called on all delegates to be respectful of each other. “We owe it to our selves, we owe it to our constituents, we owe it to men and women and children and families that we represent to do better than we are,” Hanshaw said.
He did not directly reference the poster in his speech to the House.
West Virginia State Senate President Mitch Carmichael released a statement on Friday’s events. “The West Virginia Senate is a body that embraces the goodness in all people and celebrates the unique diversity of those who call this great nation of ours home. We must be strong in our resolve to stand up and speak out against fear and hatred when we see it, and we absolutely condemn the kind of behavior that was on display in our own State Capitol. It is hateful and wrong. Above all, it is not representative of the values that the vast majority of West Virginians hold dear. We, as a state, are far better than what we saw today,” Sen. Carmichael said.
FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR