Rep. Karl Oliver, the Republican from Winona who incited a social media uproar after calling for the lynching of Louisiana officials who removed Confederate monuments from New Orleans, issued an apology late Monday morning.
“I, first and foremost, wish to extend this apology for any embarrassment I have caused to both my colleagues and fellow Mississippians,” Oliver wrote in an email.
“In an effort to express my passion for preserving all historical monuments, I acknowledge the word ‘lynched’ was wrong,” Oliver said.
“I am very sorry. It is in no way, ever, an appropriate term,” he continued. “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.”
When reached by phone Monday, Oliver, who was at the State Capitol, declined an in-person interview. He said he did not have anything further to say beyond his statement.
“This is not what I intended,” Oliver said. He removed the Facebook post from his page shortly after issuing the apology.
The post, which was written Saturday evening, condemned the removal of the four Confederate monuments from the city of New Orleans.
“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!” Oliver wrote.
Gov. Phil Bryant and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, along with other Republican officials, denounced Oliver’s statement. Gunn called on Oliver to apologize.
“Rep. Oliver’s language is unacceptable and has no place in civil discourse,” Bryant said in an email Monday morning.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, a Democrat who pushed for removal of the statues, emailed this response to Mississippi Today about Oliver’s post: “Now that everyone can see Mississippi State Rep. Oliver’s position on the matter clearly, his message proves our fight to tackle the issue of race head on is both right and necessary.”
Gunn, R-Clinton, also condemned Oliver’s words in an emailed statement, writing “They do not reflect the views of the Republican party, the leadership of the House of Representatives or the House as a whole. Using the word “lynched” is inappropriate and offensive.”
At a Stennis Capitol Press Forum, Gunn told a room full of press, lobbyists and other government stakeholders that he revoked Oliver’s position as vice-chairman of the House Forestry Committee.
“(Oliver’s post) does not reflect the values of the leadership in the House, and for that reason he will no longer be part of the leadership,” Gunn said. “I’ve done what I believe is appropriate and immediate and I will continue to monitor that.”
He also reiterated the statement he made earlier Monday morning, saying there is no stronger word to use than “condemn” for Oliver’s “unfortunate social media episode.”
“I’ve done the best I can in the amount of time I’ve had to fool with it,” Gunn said. “I’ve called on the man to retract his statement, I’ve called on the man to apologize, and I disciplined him with the only thing I really have to discipline him with.”
Gunn said he also called Rep. John Read, R-Gautier and Rep. Doug McLeod, R-Lucedale to tell them their choice to “like” Oliver’s post on Facebook was a bad decision, but they will not face the same punishment.
Read liked Oliver’s post when it was originally posted, but later unliked it. He said he doesn’t remember hitting the like button himself. When asked for a comment on the language in the post, Read said to talk to Oliver. McLeod could not be reached for comment.
“Rep. Oliver’s comments were offensive, do not represent the Mississippi Republican Party and have no place in our public discourse,” Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef said in a statement. “I hope he will quickly clear up his remarks to make his point without these inappropriate comments.”
State Treasurer Lynn Fitch also called Monday on Oliver to apologize: “I call on Rep. Oliver to apologize for and remove his hateful words. His language does not reflect my views or those of the vast majority of Mississippians. I am disappointed that it is statements like his that make headlines for our great State and not all the things that make Mississippi such a wonderful place to live.”
Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, criticized Oliver on Twitter.