First, let’s get this on the table. Karl Oliver posted the following on Facebook. There’s no defending it. There’s no excusing it.
He kicked a hornet’s nest and deserves to get stung. Reaction is starting to come out from both Democrats and Republicans, and it’s not good.
Among other reactions, Speaker Philip Gunn has notably stated, “I condemn the comments recently posted on Facebook by Rep. Karl Oliver. 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.”
Here’s the deal. I can certainly get that there are people of good faith who can look at the same set of facts on this Confederate memorial/statue thing and come to a completely different conclusion. If he had just said, “I think taking down these memorials is wrong . . . I’ll do everything in my power to make sure it doesn’t happen in Mississippi,” there’d be nothing to write. But he used the word “LYNCHED” in all caps. There’s no double-entendre with that word, especially in the context of talking about Confederate related issues. It evokes, and it seems pretty clear that Oliver intended to evoke, the most inflammatory imagery to strike back at those who he perceived committed this slight against him and his “history”.
There are really only two scenarios here. Either Karl Oliver meant to cause pain with his statement or he didn’t. If he did, then everyone knows what they’re up against. If he didn’t, then he probably has questionable competency to go to the Capitol and punch a button on policy issues. In relative terms, that’s saying something.
This dumpster fire detracts from real stuff. Policy stuff. Tax cuts and right-sizing government and economic development. Stuff that really impacts people’s lives. Stuff that’s a lot bigger than his hurt feelings on a fringe issue. And it immeasurably damages the Republican brand not only in Mississippi but elsewhere.
Karl Oliver won’t resign. He may apologize, but candidly, I doubt it. The solution here for GOP Chair Joe Nosef and Speaker Philip Gunn is to start figuring out how to primary his ass. 2019 is not far off. That should be the price he pays – to have folks get rid of him at the ballot box and have the Party be active in that process. If a Republican in District 46 wants to run against him, let me know. I’ll write a check.
Rep. Oliver made an apology.
“I, first and foremost, wish to extend this apology for any embarrassment I have caused to both my colleagues and fellow Mississippians,” Oliver said in a written response. “In an effort to express my passion for preserving all historical monuments, I acknowledge the word ‘lynched’ was wrong. I am very sorry. It is in no way, ever, an appropriate term. I deeply regret that I chose this word, and I do not condone the actions I referenced, nor do I believe them in my heart. I freely admit my choice of words was horribly wrong, and I humbly ask your forgiveness.”
He also took down his post. It has been replaced by us in the story above with a screenshot of it.
He apologized as he should have. I am a bit surprised, but glad for everyone he did. But he’s done real damage that an “I’m sorry” ain’t going to fix right away.
I’m also still willing to write a check for a primary challenger in 2019.
UPDATE #2 – 12:40 p.m.
At the Stennis Press Luncheon, according to reports, Speaker Philip Gunn announced that Oliver’s Vice-Chairmanship of Forestry was revoked.