The chairwoman of the West Virginia GOP on Saturday claimed ignorance of an Islamophobic poster featured as part of a celebration of the state’s Republican Party on Friday.
“The West Virginia Republican Party does not approve, condone, or support hate speech,” read a statement from party chair Melody Potter posted on Twitter Saturday morning. “One of the exhibitors at our West Virginia Republican Party Day at the Capitol displayed a sign that we did not approve, were not aware of before the day started, and we do do not support. Upon learning about the sign, we immediately asked this exhibitor to remove the sign.”
The poster featured pictures of the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001 and freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. It featured the text: “‘Never Forget’ – you said.. I am the proof – you have forgotten.”
Mike Pushkin, a Democratic delegate in the state’s legislature, shared a picture of the display on Twitter Friday.
— (((Mike Pushkin))) (@pushkinforhouse) March 1, 2019
The Washington Post and West Virginia Public Radio reported that the sign appeared next to another item advertising ACT for America, the anti-Muslim hate group. The West Virginia Register-Herald reported that Brenda Arthur, a local representative of ACT for America who also presented before the House of Delegates’ homeland security committee in 2017, was responsible for the poster. The organization didn’t immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.
Referencing the recent arrest of a white nationalist Coast Guard lieutenant who allegedly included her name in a hit list, Omar wrote on Twitter: “No wonder why I am on the ‘Hitlist’ of a domestic terrorist and ‘Assassinate Ilhan Omar’ is written on my local gas stations.”
No wonder why I am on the “Hitlist” of a domestic terrorist and “Assassinate Ilhan Omar” is written on my local gas stations.
Look no further, the GOP's anti-Muslim display likening me to a terrorist rocks in state capitols and no one is condemning them! https://t.co/0ouCaloWqh
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 1, 2019
The incident also reportedly led to the resignation of the House of Delegates’ sergeant at arms, Anne Lieberman. According to the Washington Post, a Democratic delegate accused Lieberman of saying that all Muslims are terrorists during a discussion of the display.
Separately, Democratic Whip Mike Caputo admitted to kicking open the door to the House of Delegates chamber despite a doorkeeper holding it closed during the daily prayer and pledge of allegiance. The doorkeeper was reportedly hurt.
“We’ve got doorkeepers going nose to nose with members, Sergeant at Arms going nose to nose with members. We have created an anger that I’ve never witnessed in 23 years in this body and it’s sickens me. It absolutely sickens me. But, yeah I, kicked that door open. I’ll own it,” he said, per West Virginia Public Radio.
Without addressing the poster specifically, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw said in a statement, in part: “The West Virginia House of Delegates unequivocally rejects hate in all of its forms.”