(NBC News) — Angry arguments broke out in the West Virginia statehouse on Friday after the state Republican Party allegedly set up an anti-Muslim display in the rotunda linking the 9/11 terror attacks to a freshman congresswoman from Minnesota.
One staff member was physically injured during the morning’s confrontations, and another official resigned after being accused of making anti-Muslim comments.
The display featured a picture of the World Trade Center in New York City as a fireball exploded from the one of the Twin Towers, set above a picture of Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim.
“‘Never forget’ – you said. . .” read a caption on the first picture. “I am the proof – you have forgotten,” read the caption under the picture of Omar, who is wearing a hijab.
— (((Mike Pushkin))) (@pushkinforhouse) March 1, 2019
Omar tweeted about the incident later on Friday.
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 display was set up as part of “WV GOP Day,” which the party advertised on Facebook as a day when “Republicans Take the Rotunda.”
Several Democrats objected to the display, and reportedly got into an argument with the House’s sergeant at arms, Anne Lieberman, after she allegedly made an anti-Muslim remark.
Del. Mike Angelucci, D-Marion, charged Lieberman had said “all Muslims are terrorists.”
He said that was “hate speech.”
“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,” he said, according to WSAZ.
“I am furious, and I don’t want to see her representing the people of this great state in the House again,” Angelucci said of Lieberman, who became the state’s first female sergeant at arms last year. Speaking to West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Lieberman denied she’d made the comment. By the end of the day she had submitted her resignation “effective immediately,” officials said.
The outrage continued on the House floor, where Del. Mike Pushkin, a Democrat, took aim at the display.
“It’s ugly, it’s hateful and there’s absolutely no place for it in American politics,” Pushkin said, according to WVNews. “Not in the country that I love. Not in the state that I love. We all give up our time during this time of year to come up here and serve our constituents because we love this state. Well, I love everybody in the state no matter what they look like, who they pray to, who they love. I’m tired of it. It disgusts me.”
Pushkin, who’s Jewish, added, “I’m proud to live in a country that somebody can come into this country with absolutely nothing and wind up in the halls of Congress representing the state of Minnesota.”
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw issued a statement saying his office is investigating what happened.
“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,” the statement said.
“The West Virginia House of Delegates unequivocally rejects hate in all of its forms.”
The House is made up of 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats.
In later remarks on the floor, Hanshaw said an unidentified staffer had been injured during the confrontations, but gave no other details. “I bluntly struggle with what even to say,” he said. “We have allowed national level politics to become a cancer on our state . . to invade our chamber in a way that makes me ashamed.”
“We can do better,” he added.
Another Republican delegate, Eric Porterfield, was hit with calls to resign last month after he called LGBTQ groups “the closest thing to political terrorism in America” and “a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan.”
“Let me (be) very clear with my statement,” Porterfield told NBC News then. “The LGBTQ — not homosexuals — are the modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan.”