Ex-West Virginia staffer disputes making anti-Muslim comment

JOHN RABY

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A former West Virginia Capitol staffer is disputing anti-Muslim comments a lawmaker said she made in response to an Islamophobic display outside the House of Delegates chamber.

Anne Lieberman issued a statement Sunday on Facebook, two days after she resigned as House sergeant at arms.

Lieberman said she was summoned to a disturbance outside the chamber on Friday when she encountered Delegate Michael Angelucci, who asked her to remove an anti-Muslim poster. The poster falsely connected a Muslim U.S. congresswoman to the 2001 U.S. terrorist attacks and was part of a group's display during the legislature's "GOP Day."

In a subsequent House floor speech, Angelucci said he recalled Lieberman tell him, "'All Muslims are terrorists."

According to Lieberman's statement, she told Angelucci, "Not all Muslims are terrorists." Lieberman said Angelucci misunderstood or misheard her.

Angelucci didn't immediately return a phone message Sunday.

Lieberman said that after speaking with Angelucci, she went to her office and did not attend the floor session. She said that as she sat in her office, she was not immediately aware "that I was being falsely accused and defamed on the floor of the House."

The duties of the sergeant at arms include maintaining order in the House chamber, galleries and outside lobby.

According to House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, a House doorkeeper was injured in a separate incident Friday when another lawmaker angry over the display kicked a door open.

Lieberman said she later met with Hanshaw and offered to resign "if it would help (defuse) the situation."

Lieberman said Hanshaw accepted her offer.

"The vile and repugnant messages I have received from total strangers in response to something I did not say, now compels me to submit this account of what led up to my resignation," Lieberman wrote.

The poster was over a table loaded with other Islamophobic flyers and bore an image of the burning World Trade Center juxtaposed with a picture of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American and one of the first Muslim congresswomen ever elected.

"'Never forget' — You said," was written over the Twin Towers.

The group whose name appeared on a sign next to the display, ACT for America, has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The organization, which describes itself as a national security advocacy group, issued a statement Saturday saying it was not behind the images.

As photos of the display went viral Friday, Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, 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. Look no further, the GOP's anti-Muslim display likening me to a terrorist rocks in state capitols and no one is condemning them!"

The display drew strong rebukes from local and national lawmakers. On Saturday, the West Virginia Republican Party said it does "not endorse speech that advances intolerant and hateful views."