Facebook post from Rep. Karl Oliver

A state representative from Winona who urged in a weekend Facebook post that those who support the removal of Confederate monuments be lynched has apologized.

Rep. Karl Oliver, R-Winona, wrote: “The destruction of these monuments, 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.”

Oliver emailed a statement late Monday morning saying “I deeply regret that I chose this word.” However the Facebook post had not been deleted at the time of his apology.

House Speaker Philip Gunn condemned Oliver’s post in an emailed statement Monday morning. The comments “do not reflect the views of the Republican Party, the leadership of the House of Representatives or the House as a whole,” Gunn said.

“Using the word ‘lynched’ is inappropriate and offensive,” Gunn continued. “We call on Rep. Oliver to apologize.”

Gov. Phil Bryant released a statement in an email: “Rep. Oliver’s language is unacceptable and has no place in civil discourse.”

Oliver’s post, put up Saturday evening, included a photo of the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, the last of four statues in New Orleans to be removed.

Messages left for Oliver, who is a funeral director, at his workplace and on his cell phone were not immediately returned.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu first publicly called for the removal of four of the city’s Confederate monuments in June 2015.

In effect, Oliver is calling in his Facebook post for the mayor of New Orleans to be lynched. Oliver represents the community of Money, where 14-year-old Emmett Till was lynched 62 years ago.

Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton Credit: AP photo, Rogelio V. Solis

Gunn’s statement Monday morning was among the first public reaction from state Republican leaders. Gunn has previously called for replacing the state flag, which displays the Confederate battle emblem.

Two state representatives, John Read, R-Gautier, and Doug McLeod, R-Lucedale, liked the Facebook post.

“Like all members of the House, Representative Oliver reserves the right to voice his opinion on any matter he chooses,” said a statement sent on behalf of the House of Representatives. “However, that opinion does not necessarily reflect that of his fellow legislators.”

Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, D-Gulfport Credit: Rogelio V. Solis, AP

“The shameful, but seemingly extremely comfortable, choice of words used by my colleague Rep. Karl Oliver, were offensive to me as the act of lynching was commonly used and most targeted toward African American men, women and children in the south and especially in our state,” said Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, D-Gulfport. She is head of the Legislative Black Caucus.

“I commend Louisiana’s leaders for taking the brave stance to remove the offensive monuments from public areas in their city,” she continued. “It is time for Mississippi to make similar strides as many in our state find the state flag offensive and non-representing of all Mississippi residents.”

“Lynch” is defined as “to put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal approval or permission.”

In the South, the term is most commonly associated with violence by whites against blacks in the late 19th century through the civil rights era.  A recent report by the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that provides legal aid to low-income individuals, estimates there were almost 4,000 lynchings of African Americans in the South from 1877 to 1950.

“Racial terror lynching was a tool used to enforce Jim Crow laws and racial segregation—a tactic for maintaining racial control by victimizing the entire African American community, not merely punishment of an alleged perpetrator for a crime,” the report states.

Although the fate of the statues is unclear, the city will receive proposals from groups that want to take three of the monuments and display them, NPR reported.

Contributing: Kayleigh Skinner

Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.