JEFFERSON CITY – A Missouri lawmaker who called for the vandal of a Confederate monument to be hanged left a Thursday ethics hearing unpunished after his Republican colleagues voted down their only option to continue pursuing discipline against him.
By simply disagreeing with the House Ethics Committee's recommendation that he be reprimanded and stripped of his committee assignments, Rep. Warren Love derailed that effort. His fellow Republicans on the committee then voted down an opportunity to revive that possible punishment by continuing the ethics review.
House Democratic Leader Gail McCann Beatty, who filed one of the complaints against Love, now is calling for action by Republican House Speaker Todd Richardson, who could still discipline him. Richardson did not immediately respond to Associated Press requests for comment Thursday.
Love is under fire for an August Facebook post expressing hope that whoever vandalized the monument in Springfield, Missouri, would be "hung from a tall tree with a long rope." He has said he was using old cowboy jargon for saying he hopes the vandal is prosecuted, but Democrats have said his words evoke images of lynchings of black people.
During the ethics hearing, Love apologized again but said he doesn't deserve to be punished.
"I'm not admitting I did anything wrong," Love said. "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."
Suburban St. Louis Republican Rep. Marsha Haefner told Love during Thursday's hearing that she finds it "almost impossible" he didn't connect the dots with a lynching, and noted his comment came amid a nationwide controversy over Confederate monuments and white nationalist rallies.
"I just think you're smarter than thinking it has no meaning in regards to race," she said. "Where I come from, this is not cowboy talk. It's not acceptable."
Haefner voted to reprimand Love, but later voted against continuing the review.
If Love continues to go unpunished, reaction to his Facebook post will stand in contrast to treatment of a suburban St. Louis Democrat who also faced backlash for a social media comment.
Numerous top Republican and Democratic officials in Missouri called on Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal to resign after she wrote "I hope Trump is assassinated!" on her personal Facebook page in August and later deleted it. She has said the remark was made in frustration over Trump's response to a white nationalist rally in Virginia that descended into violence.
Senators in response formally reprimanded her in September, and the Senate Democratic leader took away her committee memberships.
"It seems there is one standard for black, Democratic women and another for white Republican men," McCann Beatty told the ethics panel.