As racist scandals peter out of the news cycle in Virginia proper, in West Virginia, an Islamophobic poster placed in the Charleston capitol rotunda on Friday has thrust state legislators into argument and chaos. On Friday, also known as “WV GOP Day,” a poster of Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar was placed in the statehouse insinuating the congresswoman is somehow connected with 9/11.
Democrats promptly rejected the poster: Delegate Mike Angelucci reportedly began to argue with Sergeant-at-Arms Anne Lieberman, whom he accused of saying “all Muslims are terrorists.” By the end of the day, Lieberman, the state’s first female Sergeant-at-Arms — the officer responsible for capitol law enforcement — had resigned. Democratic House Minority Whip Mike Caputo also reportedly injured a doorkeeper during the argument over the poster, sending the employee to the hospital. The House Rules Committee will meet at 8 a.m. Saturday to determine if Caputo will face official consequences for the alleged action.
As of publication, it is unclear who placed the poster in the rotunda, but Republican House Speaker Roger Hanshaw condemned the act after confrontations on the floor: “The West Virginia House of Delegates unequivocally rejects hate in all of its forms.” Hanshaw added: “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.”
It’s not the first act of public bigotry to occur within GOP ranks in West Virginia this year: in February, Republican Delegate Eric Porterfield told NBC News “The LGBTQ … are the modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan.” Though calls were made for his resignation, Porterfield is still in office.
For her part, Ilhan Omar — who, with Rashida Tlaib, became the first Muslim women elected to Congress this midterm — responded on Twitter:
The Islamophobic poster comes the same week as Omar claimed that American pro-Israel hawks “push for allegiance to a foreign country,” a comment that has been received as anti-Semetic. (As New York’s Jonathan Chait wrote, “Accusing Jews of ‘allegiance to a foreign country’ is a historically classic way of delegitimizing their participation in the political system.”) But employing such a vulgar understanding of Muslim-Americans involves no ambiguity or interpretation.