Mississippi lawmaker ‘sorry’ he urged lynching for statue removal

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FILE PHOTO - A monument of Robert E. Lee, who was a general in the Confederate Army, is removed in New Orleans

By Ian Simpson

(Reuters) – A Mississippi state lawmaker who called for the lynching of Louisiana officials for removing pro-slavery era monuments apologized on Monday after his comments sparked a firestorm of criticism.

Republican Representative Karl Oliver had taken to Facebook on Saturday to criticize the removal of monuments in New Orleans that city leaders deemed racially offensive. The last of the four statues, of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, was taken down on Friday.

The Confederacy was made up of states that attempted to preserve slavery in the South and secede from the United States in the Civil War of 1861 to 1865.

Oliver, a first-term lawmaker, said the monuments had been erected in the “memory of our family and fellow Southern Americans” and compared those taking them down them to Nazis.

If those behind the removals want to “burn books or destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED!” Oliver wrote in a Facebook post, which has since been removed.

Oliver, a funeral home director from Winona, said on Monday that he had embarrassed fellow legislators and the state and that his choice of words was inappropriate.

“In an effort to express my passion for preserving all historical monuments, I acknowledge the word ‘lynched’ was wrong. I am very sorry,” he said in an emailed statement. Oliver did not respond to requests for an interview.

Removal of the monuments provoked clashes between opponents and supporters, and workers wore body armor and face coverings to shield their identities.

Both Republicans and Democrats in Mississippi issued statements condemning Oliver, with Republican Governor Phil Bryant saying his “language is unacceptable and has no place in civil discourse.” The state Democratic Party called it “inflammatory.”

House of Representatives Speaker Philip Gunn had called on Oliver to apologize, saying his views did not reflect those of the Republican Party or the House and its leadership.

Gunn has supported removal of the Confederate battle emblem from the Mississippi state flag, but has said he cannot get enough support from the Republican House lawmakers.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Richard Chang)

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