By Paul Hampton
It took a while, but most Republicans caught up in the uproar over Mississippi state Rep. Karl Oliver's comments about the removal of four Confederate statues in New Orleans have crawfished away from the Republican.
The latest was U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., whose office was seemingly caught off guard by a constituent's call. The Biloxi Republican came out strongly against Oliver a couple of hours after Oliver himself renounced his comments and took down his offensive Facebook post.
Oliver took to social media Saturday to vent about the removal of four Confederate statues in New Orleans. Louisiana "leaders," he said, should be lynched for destroying the statues. The post went unnoticed for the most part until Democratic state Rep. Derrick Simmons tweeted about it Sunday evening.
That caused quite a reaction.
Actually, readers pointed out, the decision was made by the New Orleans City Council and the statues were removed and stored, not destroyed. And those were among the kindest comments. The original post had more than 1,500 comments when it was taken down, many of them sharply critical of Oliver.
Oliver's tweet said: "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."
Sometime Monday morning, Janet O'Bryant of Pascagoula called Palazzo's office to ask what the congressman thought. She was told Palazzo was "still reviewing the matter."
"I told him to look up the word pusillanimous and report to his boss," she said.
Palazzo spokeswoman Jill Duckworth attributed that exchange to someone new to the office.
"While Congressman Palazzo does not support the removal of Confederate memorials, he strongly opposes using such inflammatory rhetoric like lynching to make a political argument," Duckworth said Monday afternoon. "Congressman Palazzo has actually been working to connect the mayor's office in New Orleans with the executive director of Beauvoir to assist in finding a permanent home for the memorials to ensure they remain displayed in a public setting, honoring the historical significance of both sides of the Civil War."
GOP state Rep. John Read, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he hadn't meant to hit the "like" button on the Oliver post. He and Republican state Rep. Doug McLeod both took a digital drubbing for "liking" the comment.
"Regardless of that, I do not endorse or agree with his approach to the debate over the removal of Confederate monuments," Read wrote on Facebook. "It is a debate that we can argue over but it is not one that should be approached the way Rep. Oliver has."
McLeod has been silent. The last public post on his page is: "Jeff Sessions: Charge the mayor of New Orleans with breaking federal, (sic) perjury and breaking OSHA laws."
House Speaker Phil Gunn, a Republican, was the first to denounce Oliver.
"I condemn the comments recently posted on Facebook by Rep. Karl Oliver," said Gunn in a statement released Monday morning. "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. We call on Rep. Oliver to apologize."
Then Gov. Phil Bryant called Oliver's language unacceptable. Then the MSGOP Chairman Joe Nosef weighed in, saying Oliver's comments were "offensive" and "do not represent the Mississippi Republican Party."
Then, Oliver released an apology to some news outlets. A short time later the post was gone, except for the dozens of screen shots floating around Twitter and Facebook.
(c)2017 The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.)