Source: WSAZ

Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates spent Saturday reflecting and, at times, apologizing after outbursts at the Capitol on Friday.

The chaos started after a seemingly anti-Muslim poster was put on display for “Republicans Take the Rotunda” event. The arguments on the House floor lead to the resignation of the Sergeant at Arms and the injury of a doorkeeper after Del. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, forced the chamber doors open.

“I feel just as horrible about that as you could ever imagine,” Caputo said.

Caputo issued an apology to the doorkeeper, Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw and other delegates at the start of Saturday’s session. “I will do my best to rebuild your trust and your confidence in me because that’s who Mike Caputo is,” he said.

“I accept that apology and I believe the Republicans accept his apology,” Del. Joshua Higginbotham, R-Putnam, said. That apology came after the House Rules Committee was supposed to meet early Saturday to consider possibly punishments for Caputo. However, the session continued throughout the afternoon without a morning meeting.

On Friday, Democrats urged Republicans to avoid taking action against Caputo, saying it will create more tension in the chamber.

However, lawmakers continued to call on each other for better behavior. “Violence is never the solution, even if it is untended, we have to ensure that our emotions stay in check,” Higginbotham said.

“I just hope that at the end of the day we can do what we’re all here for and that’s represent the people in our district’s in a diplomatic fashion,” Caputo said.

Higginbotham added there is a need for leaders who are willing to stand up against things like racism and hate, but he hopes people can take a stand while maintaining respect for each other.

UPDATE 3/2/19 @ 8:25 a.m.
West Virginia Republican Party Chairwoman Melody Potter is speaking out after a war of words broke out at the West Virginia Capitol Friday over a controversial poster that was displayed during a “Republicans Take the Rotunda” event.

“The West Virginia Republican Party does not approve, condone, or support hate speech,” the statement says. “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 not support. Upon learning about the sign, we immediately asked this exhibitor to remove the sign.

Our Party supports freedom of speech, but we do not endorse speech that advances intolerant and hateful views. We have shown that when West Virginians are united, when we respect each other, embrace our differences and focus on moving our state forward what we can accomplish.”

The firestorm has grabbed national attention since the story broke.

A meeting is set for Saturday morning to address the events that unfolded.

Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.

UPDATE 3/1/19 @ 10:30 p.m.
The reverberations of an anti-Muslim poster on display at the West Virginia Capitol rotunda continue, with the House Sergeant at Arms resigning and talk of possible discipline against a lawmaker who allegedly injured a doorkeeper Friday.

Sgt. at Arms Anne Lieberman resigned Friday afternoon after delegates accused her of using an anti-Muslim slur. “The sergeant of arms of this body had the nerve to say to us ‘all Muslims are terrorists’ that’s beyond shameful and that’s beyond freedom of speech,” Del. Michael Angelucci, D-Marion, said.

The poster that sparked the controversy consisted of two photos. The upper photo was a picture of the World Trade Center towers during the 9/11 attack. A caption read, “‘NEVER FORGET’ – YOU SAID..”

Below it was a photo of Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, wearing a hijab. Omar is Muslim, and was one of two Muslim women elected to Congress. That picture’s caption said, “I AM PROOF – YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN.”

The anti-Muslim display was outside the House of Delegates chamber as part of a “Republicans Take the Rotunda” event.

A lawmaker told us Friday evening that the House Rules Committee will meet at 8 a.m. Saturday to decide if Del. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, will face repercussions for allegedly injuring a doorkeeper during an angry outburst regarding the poster. Caputo is the minority whip in the House.

Caputo admitted to kicking the door because he wanted to get into the chamber and he said he was being blocked. “We have created an anger that I have never witnessed in 23 years in this body and it sickens me. It absolutely sickens me. So yeah, I kicked the door open I’ll own it,” Caputo said. The doorkeeper was taken to the hospital for evaluation.

Democrats in the House spoke out against the poster, saying it is the second hateful event to happen in that legislative body during this session. They referred back to when Del. Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, compared the LGBTQ community to the Ku Klux Klan.

“We have diverse caucus and many of our people believe that it is festered and it’s intolerable,” Del. Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, said.

Other delegates spoke up during the floor session and said, no matter the message, they will protect the voice of the person who put that poster on display. “While I may not agree with everything that is out there, I do agree that freedom of speech is something that we have to protect,” Del. Dianna Graves, R-Kanawha, said.

When House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, addressed the House, he called on all delegates to be respectful of each other. “We owe it to our selves, we owe it to our constituents, we owe it to men and women and children and families that we represent to do better than we are,” Hanshaw said.

He did not directly reference the poster in his speech to the House.

West Virginia State Senate President Mitch Carmichael released a statement on Friday’s events. “The West Virginia Senate is a body that embraces the goodness in all people and celebrates the unique diversity of those who call this great nation of ours home. We must be strong in our resolve to stand up and speak out against fear and hatred when we see it, and we absolutely condemn the kind of behavior that was on display in our own State Capitol. It is hateful and wrong. Above all, it is not representative of the values that the vast majority of West Virginians hold dear. We, as a state, are far better than what we saw today,” Sen. Carmichael said.

UPDATE 3/1/19 @ 6:20 p.m.
The reverberations of an anti-Muslim poster on display at the West Virginia Capitol rotunda continue, with the House Sergeant at Arms resigning and talk of possible discipline against a lawmaker who allegedly injured a doorkeeper Friday, according to our crew at the scene.

Sgt. at Arms Anne Lieberman resigned Friday afternoon after being accused of an anti-Muslim slur.

A lawmaker told us Friday evening that the House Rules Committee will meet at 8 a.m. Saturday to decide if Del. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, will face repercussions for allegedly injuring a doorkeeper during an angry outburst among legislators. Caputo is the minority whip in the House.

Lawmakers say that doorkeeper was hurt when a door was kicked in. That doorkeeper was taken to the hospital for evaluation.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, called on all delegates to be respectful of each other.

The poster in question consisted of two photos. The upper photo was a picture of the World Trade Center towers during the 9/11 attack. A caption read, “‘NEVER FORGET’ – YOU SAID..”

Below it was a photo of Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, wearing a hijab. Omar is Muslim, and was one of two Muslim women elected to Congress. That picture’s caption said, “I AM PROOF – YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN.”

The anti-Muslim display was outside the House of Delegates chamber as part of a “Republicans Take the Rotunda” event.

Tempers flared in the House chamber when angry Democrats condemned the display.

We have a crew at the Capitol. Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest information.


ORIGINAL STORY 3/1/19
An anti-Muslim poster on display in the West Virginia Capitol rotunda Friday led to tempers flaring among legislators.

The poster consisted of two photos. The upper photo was a picture of the World Trade Center towers during the 9/11 attack. A caption read, “‘NEVER FORGET’ – YOU SAID..”

Below it was a photo of Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, wearing a hijab. Omar is Muslim, and was one of two Muslim women elected to Congress. That picture’s caption said, “I AM PROOF – YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN.”

The anti-Muslim display was outside the House of Delegates chamber as part of a “Republicans Take the Rotunda” event.

Tempers flared in the House chamber when angry Democrats condemned the display.

Del. Michael Angelucci (D-Marion) accused Sergeant at Arms Anne Lieberman of an anti-Muslim slur. According to our crew at a legislative hearing late Friday afternoon, Lieberman has since resigned.

“The Sergeant at Arms of this body had enough nerve to say to us all Muslims are terrorists,” Angelucci said. “The Sergeant at Arms of this body that represents the people of the state of West Virginia said all Muslims are terrorists. That’s beyond shameful. And that’s not freedom of speech, that’s hate speech. That has no place in this House, the people’s House, and I am furious. I don’t want to see her representing the people of this great state in this house again. Muslims are not terrorists. Christians have killed people. That doesn’t mean Christians are terrorists. I am a Christian. I am a proud Christian. I am not a terrorist. There’s no room for that hate in this House.”

Republicans defended the display as free speech.

“While I may not agree with everything out there,” said Del. Dianna Graves (R-Kanawha), “I do agree that freedom of speech is something we have to protect.”

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R-Clay) issued this statement after the heated exchange on the floor:

“The West Virginia House of Delegates unequivocally rejects hate in all of its forms. As we began today’s floor session, we had a series of incidents occur in and outside of our Chamber that absolutely do not reflect the character and civility the people of this state demand of their public servants. Leadership of the House of Delegates is currently working to investigate these incidents to learn firsthand the factual basis of what occurred, and will respond with appropriate action.”

WSAZ is working to confirm who put up the display.

Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest information.

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