Editorial: Why was a Missouri Democratic lawmaker punished while the Republican got off scot-free?

The Kansas City Star Editorial Board, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Op Eds

Missouri state Rep. Warren Love got this much right.

"God, I pissed a lot of people off," the Osceola Republican said last week after a disciplinary hearing about his now-infamous comments suggesting that those who vandalized a Confederate memorial in Springfield should be "hung from a tall tree with a long rope."

Love walked away from that hearing with nary a slap on the wrist, and that has a lot of people fuming, including those who logically equated Love's remarks last year on Facebook with Missouri's ugly heritage of racial lynchings. It was just last year, after all, that new data revealed that the 60 lynchings of African Americans in Missouri between 1877 and 1950 were the second-highest total outside the deep South.

In fact, Love's punishment-free status just compounds the injustice, especially considering that a companion case in the state Senate was handled much differently.

Love's hang-'em-high remarks came just two weeks after state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a University City Democrat, remarked on Facebook that she wished President Donald Trump would be assassinated. Chappelle-Nadal's comment was met with calls for her resignation from Gov. Eric Greitens. Members of both parties condemned her.

Chappelle-Nadal was censured, marking the first time in state history that a sitting senator had been so punished. She also was stripped of her committee assignments.

Of course, this now presents Republican leaders with a serious problem. A Democrat, a person of color, who advocated violence has been punished. But the Republican who made similar remarks laced with heavy racial overtones has not.

The situation is complicated by two issues. The first is that Love initially agreed to accept the judgment of the House Ethics Committee, which conducted the hearing. The first vote to censure Love failed on a 5-5 party-line vote. But the second vote for a less severe punishment -- a formal reprimand and recommendation that he be stripped of his committee assignments -- passed 6-4.

But at that point, Love rejected the committee's decision (arcane rules apparently give him that authority), and he walked away with no punishment. Essentially Love broke his word and got away with it.


Now, House Democratic leader Gail McCann Beattty, a Kansas City Democrat, is asking that House Speaker Todd Richardson, a Republican, do the disciplining. Beatty called for Richardson to remove Love from his committee assignments. Richardson should do what his House colleagues couldn't and discipline Love.

The second issue here is just as troubling: Love still doesn't get it. Although he's apologized for his remarks, he's declined to remove the post, and he continues to stand by the absurd notion that his comments had nothing to do with race and were motivated by a desire to seek justice. Love also insisted that reporters had blown the matter out of proportion, although he also admitted during the hearing that "maybe I need to be taken to the woodshed."

A call for a lynching has everything to do with race because that tactic terrified African Americans for generations across the country, including in Love's home state. To resurrect that crime easily qualifies as insensitive and inappropriate. For the record, Love once shared a post referring to Abraham Lincoln as a tyrant.

Chappelle-Nadal has been punished, and Love should be, too. Speaker Richardson has to do what's right or accept the reality that his party will be branded anew as a group that still doesn't get it when it comes to race.

(c)2018 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

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