Mississippi lawmaker apologizes for lynching comment over removing Confederate statues

A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee being removed from a pedestal in New Orleans
A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is removed from Lee Circle in New Orleans on May 19, 2017. (Photo: Scott Threlkeld/AP)

A Mississippi statehouse representative has apologized after saying those responsible for removing Confederate monuments in Louisiana should be lynched.

“The destruction of these monuments,” wrote Rep. Karl Oliver on Facebook Saturday night, “erected in the loving memory of our family and fellow Southern Americans, is both heinous and horrific. If the, and I use this term extremely loosely, ‘leadership’ of Louisiana wishes to, in a Nazi-ish fashion, burn books or destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED! Let it be known, I will do all in my power to prevent this from happening in our State.”

Related: Photos — the removal of Confederate monuments

The post began circulating after State Senator Derrick Simmons flagged it Sunday on Twitter. Oliver, a Republican, had his statement condemned by state-level leadership of his party.

“Rep. Oliver’s language is unacceptable and has no place in civil discourse,” said Gov. Phil Bryant in a statement.

House Speaker Philip Gunn called on Oliver to apologize in an emailed statement Monday morning, adding the comments “do not reflect the views of the Republican Party, the leadership of the House of Representatives or the House as a whole.” Oliver did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I, first and foremost, wish to extend this apology for any embarrassment I have caused to both my colleagues and fellow Mississippians,” said Oliver in a written response to the Clarion-Ledger early Monday afternoon. “In an effort to express my passion for preserving all historical monuments, I acknowledge the word ‘lynched’ was wrong. I am very sorry. It is in no way, ever, an appropriate term. I deeply regret that I chose this word, and I do not condone the actions I referenced, nor do I believe them in my heart. I freely admit my choice of words was horribly wrong, and I humbly ask your forgiveness.”

Oliver represents Money, the town where 14-year-old Emmett Till was tortured and lynched in 1955 for talking to a married white woman. A recent study estimated that over 4,000 African-Americans were lynched across 12 Southern states between 1877 and 1950.

On Friday, the city of New Orleans removed a fourth and final Confederate monument in the city. This ended a two-year-long process that began when the City Council approved a 2015 proposal from Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

“They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history,” said Landrieu on Friday after a memorial to Robert E. Lee memorial was removed. “These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for,” Landrieu said, adding that Lee and the Confederate army fought against the United States. “They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.”

There has been other pushback against the nationwide trend of removing Confederate monuments. A group of white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month around a memorial dedicated to Lee and Stonewall Jackson. 100-150 people carrying torches surrounded the statue, which the city council had voted to sell in April. Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer called the demonstration “horrific.”