CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) –
After controversy stemming from an anti-muslim display hit the State Capitol, the House of Delegates Sergeant-at-Arms resigned. Anne Lieberman has now released the following statement on what she says happened.
Until the events of this past Friday, I was honored to serve as Sergeant-at-Arms for the West Virginia House of Delegates. It was my job to serve all Members of the House by maintaining decorum under the direction of the Speaker.
This became increasingly difficult on Friday’s “GOP Day at the Capitol.” Many of the Delegates, especially some in the Minority, were in a state of aggravation – due first, I believe, to the GOP’s many Trump signs, and later focusing on a particular display which included an image of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center with a photo of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. I had no idea what the poster said; as on most days, I was too busy to look carefully at displays in the Rotunda.
My initial encounter with Delegate Angelucci that morning came when I saw him placing Trump signs on the seats of his Minority colleagues in the Chamber. I attempted a light touch, telling him, “You know, you’re not really allowed to do that.” He laughed and told me that he would just put the blame on me; we both smiled. Looking back, that conversation may have presaged what later resulted in my resignation.
At one point in that hectic morning I was told by a doorkeeper, “You have to come NOW.” I heard voices rising and saw a small crowd gathering at one if the displays, so I went. At that disturbance, I was reassured by a Delegate that it was only a discussion, however heated, and nothing to worry about.
As I walked back toward the Chamber, I again encountered Delegate Angelucci, who was extremely irate, telling me “this” shouldn’t be allowed and I must have it taken down immediately. I looked around and came to understand he was talking about the 9-11/Omar poster.
I tried to calm him and the young man with him (Ben Kessler), saying that everyone was finding this very emotional. Angelucci then went on a tirade about how there have been Christian terrorists shooting up churches. Because I found this a false equivalence, unrelated to the poster, I made the mistake of engaging with him further.
I know for certain that I said – verbatim- that “Not all Muslims are terrorists,” but that THOSE (9/11) terrorists WERE all Muslim, trying to bring the discussion back to his original complaint.
Perhaps he misheard or misunderstood me. Or given his agitation, he may have heard what he expected or wanted to hear. Either way, it set both him and Kessler off, with both men pointing fingers and yelling accusations that I had said all Muslims are terrorists. He stormed off, threatening to “take this to the Speaker!”
While I’ve been told there are two witnesses who corroborate my account, that hardly matters now.
Seeming to have made things worse rather than better, I secluded myself in my office to consider what had just happened. I did not attend the floor session, did not witness the incident at the Chamber doors, and did not know – as yet – that I was being falsely accused and defamed on the floor of the House. I spent that time in my office, talking with the doorkeeper who I learned had experienced a separate “incident” at the main Chamber doors during the Pledge and the Prayer.
I reported to the Speaker’s staff that the doorkeeper had been injured. This led in the end to my being interviewed by the Speaker, in the company of his Counsel and the Majority Leader. I explained all that I knew to have happened and offered to resign if it would help diffuse the situation. It didn’t take long for my offer to be accepted.
Leaving the Capitol, it was my intent to maintain a posture of “No Comment” in the hope that this, along with my resignation, would satisfy an urgent need for restoration of calm. And I would have continued to offer no comment were it not for misinformation in media reports and much hateful rhetoric on “social media.”
The vile and repugnant messages I have received from total strangers in response to something I did not say, now compels me to submit this account of what led up to my resignation.
May G-d bless the state of West Virginia and its government. And G-d bless all good and decent people, wherever you are.
West Virginia Republican Party Chairwoman Melody Potter issued the following statement on the display at the State Capitol regarding Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
“The West Virginia Republican Party does not approve, condone, or support hate speech. One of the exhibitors at our West Virginia Republican Party Day at the Capitol displayed a sign that we did not approve, were not aware of before the day started, and we do not support. Upon learning about the sign, we immediately asked this exhibitor to remove the sign.
Our Party supports freedom of speech, but we do not endorse speech that advances intolerant and hateful views. We have shown that when West Virginians are united, when we respect each other, embrace our differences and focus on moving our state forward what we can accomplish.”
A huge controversy erupted at the West Virginia Capitol today, over a poster and booth that critics called bigoted and hateful.
Friday, March 1st, 2019, was West Virginia Republican Party Day at the Capitol, but a poster at one booth garnered a lot of attention.
It depicted planes flying into the twin towers on 9-11, with the phrase “never forget, you said” at the top. The bottom of the photo shows Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D), who is a Muslim, and reads, “I am the proof you have forgotten.”
Rep Omar, is a U.S. citizen who had nothing to do with the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
Also at the booth was a book titled Readin‘, Writin’, and Jihadin’ The Islamization of America Public Schools, as we pamphlets titled “Islam in a Nutshell The Muslim Brotherhood,” “Interfaith Dialouge or Deception,” and “The Four Stages of Islamic Conquest.”
Del. Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha) said, “I expressed my disgust about something like that, that really I believe points out a hatred and a mistrust of somebody because of their religious background, because of their religion.”
Del. Dianna Graves (R-Kanawha), said, “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.”
Brenda Arthur, who was running the booth for WV ACT for America, said, “I don’t want to say anything, sir, because I’ve been interviewed before and the media always cuts out what I say and what I want to say, so I’m not interested.”
Belinda Biafore, the Chairwoman of the West Virginia Democratic Party, released the following statement:
“This isn’t about freedom of speech, this is about hate speech.
This display of hatred has no place in the People’s House and this is just the latest display of hate from the Republican Majority this Legislative Session.
Chairwoman Melody Potter and the rest of Republican Leadership need to condemn these actions and this type of hate. We’ve been asking for weeks for action to be taken on Porterfield and there has been none.
The people of West Virginia expect better from their leadership, but the Republican Party is showing their true colors and obviously, that includes discrimination and hate.”
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R-Clay) released the following statement:
“The West Virginia House of Delegates unequivocally rejects hate in all of its forms. As we began today’s floor session, we had a series of incidents occur in and outside of our Chamber that absolutely do not reflect the character and civility the people of this state demand of their public servants. Leadership of the House of Delegates is currently working to investigate these incidents to learn firsthand the factual basis of what occurred, and will respond with appropriate action.”