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Senate President Steve Sweeney and State Sen. Teresa Ruiz called for resignation of a Toms River regional school board member who said his “life would be complete” if Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and three other first-term progressive congresswomen died.
“The comments made by Daniel Leonard are unacceptable in any context and no one with such hateful, harmful views should be in a position to shape the educational and socio-emotional development of our children. The attacks we have seen on these young congresswomen fighting to move our country forward have been sickening and to hear it coming from a Board of Education member is appalling,” the two senators said in a joint statement.
“It is crucial that we protect our students and we must ensure that their classrooms are safe spaces of inclusivity and acceptance. New Jersey’s greatest strength is its diversity and there is no room for hate and bigotry — Daniel Leonard should resign immediately.”
Leonard’s Facebook posts, which he has since deleted, were first reported by the Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Sweeney and Ruiz, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, are not the only lawmakers to call for Leonard to resign from his school board post, which he is running to keep this November.
Gov. Phil Murphy has called for the same, as has New Jersey’s branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“The bigoted, hateful and threatening social media posts shared by this elected board of education official serve to disqualify him for any position that has responsibility for the safety, security and well-being of New Jersey’s diverse student body,” said CAIR-NJ Executive Director James Sues. “The bigoted views expressed by Mr. Leonard have no place in an educational system that seeks to celebrate diversity and encourage students of all faiths and backgrounds to excel scholastically and to make positive contributions to our society. This is just a painful reminder of the extreme divisiveness that characterizes the current political climate at the national level.”
Leonard is also not the only one facing fire over social media posts targeting the four congresswomen, Tlaib and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).
The Sussex County Republican Party is seeing its share of criticism over a series of offensive tweets targeting the four congresswomen.
“Chairman Jerry Scanlan has agreed to remove himself from involvement in any social media platform concerning the Sussex County Republican Committee,” GOP vice chair Jill Space said in a statement this afternoon.
She said that social media posts, tweets and re-tweets, prior to 5 PM should be considered the opinion solely of Scanlan and not the Sussex County Republican Committee.
To ensure that these social media platforms reflect the genuine views of the Sussex County Republican Committee and the community it serves, we have asked Rev. Phil Rizzo to conduct a thorough review of these platforms to ensure that they reflect the policies of the Republican Party and the traditional values that we stand for.
“I am appalled and disgusted by the hateful images being shared by the Sussex County Republicans on social media,” State Democratic Chairman John Currie said. “There is no place for that kind of hate and bigotry in our politics or anywhere else for that matter. It is incumbent upon all of us regardless of political affiliation to make clear that this kind of language is unacceptable and that there are consequences for this behavior. I implore Chairman Scanlan and the Sussex County Republican Party to immediately take down the hateful images and issue an apology.”
This story was updated at 6:04 PM with comment from the Sussex Republicans.