Maria Chappelle-Nadal, the Missouri state senator who posted and deleted a remark about President Trump being assassinated, is refusing to back down.
Shortly after Trump’s response to the Charlottesville riots that left three dead and dozens injured, Sen. Chappelle-Nadal posted statuses to her private Facebook account bemoaning both the trauma her community was enduring as well as the president’s refusal to outright condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists. In the middle of the night, Chappelle-Nadal woke up from a nightmare, checked her phone, and responded to a commenter in that thread by saying she hoped Donald Trump would be assassinated.
While the comment was removed shortly after she wrote it, Sen. Chappelle-Nadal nonetheless incurred the wrath of both Republicans and Democrats, both of whom have called for her resignation. In an effort to take responsibility, Sen. Chapelle-Nadal and Missouri state senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh mutually agreed for the former to step down from her nine committee assignments.
Sen. Chappelle-Nadal — who represents Ferguson and parts of St. Louis — told Grit Post that while she has apologized for the remark on three separate occasions, and that she absolutely doesn’t want the President of the United States to be killed, she feels that calls for her to lose her job for exercising her First Amendment rights are a step too far.
“The question on my mind is, can a senator be removed for language that is protected under the First Amendment? Do I have less of a right to the First Amendment than other American citizens simply because of my stature?” Chappelle-Nadal said in a phone interview.
Michael Parson, the Republican Lieutenant Governor of Missouri, presides over the state senate. He gave Chappelle-Nadal an ultimatum to either resign by September 13 or face expulsion from the state senate in a special session. However, Sen. Chappelle-Nadal told Grit Post that a special session would require three-fourths of both the House and the Senate to vote in favor of coming back into session, meaning that 26 members of her chamber would have to sign on. She added that one Republican — whom she did not name in the interview — has said they would not vote for a special session, and that no Democrats in the chamber would support it either.
While Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, also a Republican, could call a special session, he has yet to give indication that he would do so. Chappelle-Nadal also said that even though what she said was uncalled for, being removed from office for her remark would be unprecedented.
“There has only been removal of a sitting state senator, and that was in 1945, and when that happened, it was someone who was charged with bribery, after he exchanged $1500 for a vote,” she said. “I don’t have a felony or a misdemeanor, and while what I did was wrong, at the same time I’m not being charged with anything at all.”
Even though lawmakers are calling for her to resign, Chappelle-Nadal said constituents of hers — even those who are opposed to her politics — think the calls for her to step down go too far.
“In no way am I a fan of [Chappelle-Nadal], and I have been a vocal critic of hers,” wrote one constituent in a Facebook post. “We have to stop having a double standard for blacks in our country. When the president himself is given pass after pass for making comments like this about other citizens of our country… then why should we expect people on the brunt end of those remarks to sit quietly.”
“As a white man who is afforded every privilege our country has to offer, I’m mad as hell about what Donald has said about my fellow Americans of color. I can only imagine what my reaction would be if I were black and actually on the receiving end. It would be very hard to bite my tongue,” he added.
It’s worth noting that multiple Republican lawmakers have made similar crude statements about assassination in reference to both former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Kelly Keisling — a Republican state representative from Tennessee, once suggested that Obama might fake his own assassination to avoid facing off with Mitt Romney in his 2012 re-election bid. U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-Georgia), once said of Obama in a prayer, “let his days be few,” citing a passage of scripture which also calls for a political leader’s wife to be a widow and his children to be fatherless. Additionally, Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) once joked about putting a bullseye on a Hillary Clinton target at a gun store. All of those legislators are still in office.
Given the past lack of accountability for other elected officials who have made similar statements, Sen. Chappelle-Nadal believes that the comment she made on Facebook is being used as a pretext to oust her from office, due to her legislative positions.
“I have two unaccredited schools in my district, and I raised hell about it because I want kids in my district to have a good education,” Chappelle-Nadal said. “I had 70 town hall meetings, if you added everyone in the legislature and count the number of town hall meetings they’ve had, I promise you it would not add up to 70.”
“I’ve been pushing the envelope to try and save the lives of constituents in my district,” she added.
Sen. Chappelle-Nadal stressed that she wouldn’t have even considered posting what she did had it not been for the severe emotional trauma that she and her constituents were currently enduring, given the timing of Charlottesville falling roughly around the same time the community was mourning Michael Brown — the unarmed teenager who was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
“When this all happened, we were in the 3rd anniversary of Mike Brown, the third anniversary of Ferguson. I’ve filed legislation saying that we had a human disaster, and we need more social workers and psychologists,” Chappelle-Nadal told Grit Post. “We have trauma. So for people who didn’t go through that, in those early days, they don’t understand.”
Calls made to Lt. Gov. Parson’s cell phone were not returned as of this writing.
Jordan Shaw is a New Jersey-based writer and commentator specializing in national and state government issues for Grit Post. When he’s not writing, you can find him volunteering in Camden, New Jersey, or hiking the Wissahickon Valley Park.